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You can read as many history texts as you can find about World War II and still not fully comprehend the atrocities of war until you’ve heard the stories from the brave men who actually experienced it. Laura Hillenbrand brings us one such memoir in her mesmerizing bestseller, “Unbroken.”
“Unbroken” recalls the life of Louie Zamperini, a man who seemed destined for nothing but trouble from the moment he barged out of his mother’s womb. As a child, he was nothing short of a delinquent, breaking into houses, getting into brawls, running away from home and wreaking absolute havoc on the small town of Torrance, California, just because he could. However, it was also this reputation that kept him from reform until his older (and perfect) brother Pete petitioned the principal to let Louie curb his rambunctiousness through sports. This led Louie onto a track and a run into the history books.
In his running career, Louie shattered every existing record at that time, even becoming the youngest distance runner to join the Olympic team in 1936. Although he didn’t medal, everyone knew he’d probably take gold in the 1940 games and also be the first man to clock in a four-minute mile. Unfortunately, the war dashed those dreams. The athlete became an airman, part of an Army Air Forces bomber crew that successfully pulled off many dangerous missions for our country before the horrific crash that would forever change Louie’s life.
It was on a May afternoon in 1943 that Green Hornet and its men went down in the Pacific Ocean leaving Louie, pilot Russell Allen Phillips and Sergeant Francis McNamara adrift on a small raft in the middle of a vast ocean teeming with sharks, enemy aircraft and no food or water. Their fates looked grim: they would either waste away and be torn to shreds or get captured by the Japanese. Both options were less than appealing, and yet they pushed on towards an indefinite future that promised greater trials and tribulations for them. Their steadfast will to survive demonstrates how ordinary humans can be pushed to the brink but still find the strength to continue, even in the face of adversity.
To say “Unbroken” is awe-inspiring would be a complete understatement. Hillenbrand’s depiction of Louie Zamperini is epic, a triumph in narrative storytelling. This man lived a remarkable life. From the moment you begin reading, you’re hooked, for lack of a fancier way to put it. With this book you’re given the real deal – there’s no glossing over the heinous things he endured, and you feel like you’re witnessing them first hand. It’s a roller coaster ride of suspense and not one for the weak of heart.
That Hillenbrand is fabulous cannot be denied. The sheer scope of this story is intimidating in and of itself, such that most writers would crumble under the pressure. But she bravely soldiers on, much like her subject, to deliver an extraordinarily moving account that leaves audiences positively astonished. Rebecca Skloot, author of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” puts it best: “You don’t have to be a sports fan or a war-history buff to devour this book – you just have to love great storytelling.”
Words fail to express my appreciation of what this courageous fellow has done. Thank you Louie Zamperini, and to all the unsung heroes for that matter, who made it possible for me to be writing this today.
I urge everyone reading this to pick up a copy of “Unbroken,” as this unforgettable adventure will definitely be worth your while.
To read more about “Unbroken,” please click here.