Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Laura Hillenbrand recounts the story of World War II hero Louis Zamperini in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.  Zamperini was a troubled youth until encouraged, or maybe forced, by his brother Pete to become a distance runner.  Zamperini participated in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, and his performance helped propel the young runner onto the world stage.  Zamperini was preparing for the 1940 Olympics in Tokyo when World War II broke out.  He entered the Army and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a bombardier.  After harrowing bombing runs against Japanese bases from his base in Hawaii, Zamperini’s plane crashed into the ocean.  Zamperini and his surviving crewmates were lost in the ocean with Zamperini spending over 40 days in a life raft.  After his recovery from the ocean, Zamperini experienced brutal conditions in Japanese captivity.   The reader is left with the question of how and will Zamperini survive his incredible and horrifying story.      

Hillenbrand is a solid author who spins a story that is engaging.  Readers will be regret putting down Unbroken when in the midst of the story.  And Zamperini’s story, of which I was not aware, is incredible.  It leads one to wonder how we did not discuss Zamperini more often in history courses as a representative of those held captive by the Japanese.  I left the story understanding how these men would have seen the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima as a god send as Hillenbrand chronicles events in several POW camps around the events of the flight of the Enola Gay.  Hillenbrand does an excellent job of providing tension to her readers as one questions if Louis, crewmates, or other POWs will survive the war.  Additionally, this is a book that I have been talking about as I read it.  My copy will be passed to a co-worker as I have been unable to not share Zamperini’s story as I dug into Unbroken.  Along with being well-written the text is also well researched using both oral interviews and archival documents.  Sources also come from both the United States and Japan. 
Unbroken is an excellent book that I cannot recommend enough.  It helped provide a very personal and engaging face to the facts and figures of Americans in POW captivity.  And with a story that includes castaways at sea is highly engaging.                                 

Review Copy Provided by WaterBrook Multnomah