Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: "Unbroken"

"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
First published in 2012
398 pages (not counting index, etc.)
My rating: 5 out of 5

(image source)

"Unbroken" is the masterfully told, captivating life story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic runner turned bombardier who survived World War II against impossible odds.

After Pearl Harbor, Louie joined the Army Air Corps and was assigned a position as a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator, a notoriously quirky and unsafe bomber aircraft. Stationed in Hawaii, Louie was a part of several successful missions including the 1942 Christmas air raid on Wake Island. But one May day in 1943, Louie was ordered aboard a B-24 for a routine search and rescue mission that would end in disaster -- the plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from land.

Louie and a few others survived the crash and managed to wrangle themselves into two woefully ill-equipped life rafts. With no food or fresh water readily available, the men drifted through shark-infested waters for over a month and a half before finally hitting land -- Japanese-held land. Louie was whisked off to a prisoner-of-war camp and would spend the next two and a half years being transferred to different prisons, each worse than the last. Louie and his fellow POWs endured unspeakable cruelty, abuse and malnutrition, but somehow Louie found the will to fight on.

"Unbroken" is a World War II story, but it's also so much more -- a tale of courage, bravery and heart in the midst of unimaginable horrors. While the book is a biography of Louie, it reads more like a page-turning novel. Hillenbrand tells us of Louie's childhood exploits -- ranging from mischievous to downright criminal -- and the outlet he finally found in running, his trip to the 1936 Olympics and chance meeting with Hitler, Louie's time as a rowdy military officer in Honolulu and his horrific suffering as a Japanese-held POW. And through it all, she perfectly conveys the humor, joy, love, sorrow, anger, passion and so much more that make up Louie's life. I especially enjoyed the pictures placed strategically throughout the book; actually seeing Louie, along with other characters and places, lent authenticity to the work and really brought the story home for me.

This book is not a dry, long-winded World War II tome that will appeal only to history buffs. Louie's tale -- told with Hillenbrand's deft hand -- is a unforgettable look at war, at humanity and at life that I know will stay with me for a very long time.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I'm sure it made it a little more interesting since parts of it were in Hawaii. Thanks for sharing!


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