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Review: Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

Title: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Rdemption
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Genre: Adult Non-fiction
Pages: 404 (plus notes and index)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Challenges: Reading from my shelves
FTC Disclosure: I bought this book
Summary (from the back of the book): On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trail even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Review: Fascinating, informative, shocking, funny, and revealing are all words that come to mind when I think about the book I have just finished. Laura Hillenbrand is a wonderful writer, able to weave a story together that reads like a novel even though it is non-fiction. And, she did it all with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome! I am not even sure how to put all my thoughts together about this book so I think I'll do just individual thoughts.
  • I loved the stories of Louie's childhood and his running. I had no idea he was such an amazing athlete, making it to the Olympics and shattering records left and right.
  • I have read a lot of books about WWII, but this book showed me stuff I didn't know such as life as an airman and what was happening in the fight for all the little islands in the Pacific.
  • Louie Zamperini and all the other men who were with him in the POW camps in Japan are heroes. How did they endure the beatings, the starvation, the humiliation and come out whole, I do not know.
  • The Japanese do not come out well in this book, but I must realize that it was the Japanese military machine during war time that is portrayed here and not the civilian population. Actually, I hadn't realized the course of reconciliation that took place between the US and Japan starting in the 1950s.
  • I also liked the honesty with which Hillenbrand approached the details of this story. Without giving too much away, we see the good, the bad, and the really bad of each person, making the reader feel that s/he is getting the whole truth and not just a fluff version.

Geography Connection

(photo credit for the image of Louie Zamperini)

Click to see my updated Google Map. I didn't realize that I was going to read a book that was mostly set in Japan and the Pacific. I guess I figured on the Pacific part since I knew he spent 47 days on a raft, but the whole Japan portion was a great surprise to me!

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