Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
In Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, we are introduced to a young, wild Louie Zamperini, who stole anything that wasn’t nailed down (especially food) and loved to play practical jokes that had a way of spinning out of control. There didn’t seem to be anyone or anything in his small California town that could rein him in. Based on Zamperini’s many encounters with local police officers, it appeared that he was headed for a life of lawlessness…until he discovered the joy of running.
Zamperini's older brother first recognized his talent and convinced him to start training as a runner in high school. Race after race Zamperini blew away the competition, breaking records and setting new ones right and left. Eventually, he ended up going to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where he performed well and even shook hands with Hitler. He had his sights set on a gold medal at the 1940 Olympics when something occurred that changed the course of his life forever: World War II.
Zamperini was drafted and became a bombardier in the Army Air Corps. Hillenbrand’s description of what is was like to fight in these massive airships is not to be missed. Just when I thought that the action couldn’t get any more intense, Zamperini’s B-24 crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He and two other crewman struggled to survive in just two flimsy rafts, with minimal supplies, while sharks circled them night and day. And, they were drifting ever closer to enemy territory held by the Japanese. When Zamperini was “rescued” he found himself in a situation even worse than being menaced by sharks: he became a prisoner of war under the Japanese and was sent to a prison camp governed by extreme cruelty.
Unbroken is the amazing story of survival – of the body, yes, but more importantly, of the spirit. I could not put this book down once I started it, and read literally through the night until Zamperini’s amazing story came to its conclusion.