Unbroken- Laura Hillenbrand

I had mentioned to my mom a few weeks ago that I needed a good, REAL book. After having not read all semester I was read for some good stuff. For Christmas, one of the books I got was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

We are avid war movie seers and book readers. Everything from Band of Brothers, to Steal My Soldiers Hearts to The Battle of Midway and Fury. The appreciation and honor for the men and women who have, and do serve, runs deep in our household. I come from a long line of military men. My father is a US Army veteran, my grandfather was in the Navy and it continues even further back. I am thankful that the men in my family never endured what happened in this book. I won’t be seeing the movie based on New York Times best seller Unbroken. I’ve been seeing the commercials for weeks, commenting on how good it looked. But I will not be seeing the movie. There’s no way the movie could do the book justice, and if it did, I wouldn’t be able to make it through anyway.

I could not put the book down. After reading just a bit here and there on Christmas, I spent most of the day after Christmas devouring this book. The book follows the life and remarkable story of Louie Zamperini. Second of four children to two Italian immigrants, he was born January 26, 1917 in New York. After a bought with pneumonia, the family moves to California when he is a child, this is where his story really begins. At the beginning of the book, I found myself cheering for Louie, encouraging him and laughing at his antics. By midway through the book, with each page turn, I did not think the world of Louie Zamperini and his fellow POWs could get any worse, and each time I was wrong. After floating around the ocean for well over a month, Zamperini and his crewmate Phil were captured by the Japanese. Each and every camp they were sent to, I prepared myself for the end. I kept trying to imagine what would I have done, how would I have reacted in the same situations- and my mind came up empty every time.

The power of the human spirit may be the strongest power on Earth. By the grace of God and sheer will did Louie and his mates make it. The statistics about the men in POW camps scattered throughout the book are soul shattering. The stories that came out of this time and era are haunting in a way I’ve never experienced in a book before. In a world of desensitization from violence strewn across our TV screens, video games or movies- I don’t know that a single human could not be deeply affected by the reading of this book. I have always prided myself on my knowledge of history and the Pacific theater of WWII is an area I have not ever really studied. After reading this book, I am not sure that I want to delve much deeper.

Louie Zamperini and some of his mates make it through the atrocities of the war and make it home. Some thrive, while some just barely survive, wandering through life stuck in the terror of their captivity. As I read of Zamperini’s salvation, his renewal and healing in the Billy Graham tent, tears streaked my cheeks and goosebumps covered my arms. The power of the Lord, His mercy, His never failing love and healing meet no bounds.

Laura Hillenbrand did a phenomenal job with her research. Every moment of her seven years, yes, SEVEN YEARS of interviews, reading and research showed in each sentence. It was obvious as I read that there was admiration, passion and respect put into the writing of the book. In many historical books such as this, there is a section about midway through of pictures that are printed on a slightly different kind of paper. I absolutely LOVED that when Hillenbrand went through and described something, like the cartoon Zamperini carried with him, that she put a picture of it right there in the midst of the book. When introducing or talking about a person, if she had a picture-it went in. It made what I was reading so much more real. There was a face with a name. There was an understanding and comprehension that I don’t usually have because that kind of feature is missing, and I thoroughly appreciated it.

Something else that Hillenbrand did that I really liked was follow some of the other men. If  Louie was especially close with someone, she kept them in the book. She tells the reader what happens to Phil, and Harris and a number of his other fellow soldiers and some of their experiences throughout the book. Though Zamperini was the focus, it was not ALL about him.

In the midst of reading, somewhere about half way through, I remember thinking “This should be read in high schools.” It is gory. It is hard. There were parts that were tough to swallow and get through. But so many teachers, students, and even adults today, do not talk about, recognize, think about or acknowledge what was done and given before their time to give us the freedom and liberty that we have today.

Earlier this year, at 97 years old, Louie Zamperini passed away on July 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

If you are looking for a good read that has meaning, that has depth, that is real and honest- read Unbroken.

Zamperini inspecting a hole in his plane “Super Man” after a mission