I know I’m very behind on reading and reviewing this historical gem, but since Louis Zamperini passed away a little over a year ago, I figured it was finally time to make this one a priority.
First, I was impressed by how well-researched this biography was. Laura Hillenbrand has real talent for finding nitty-gritty details and seamlessly weaving them into a beautiful narrative. Unbroken reads like a novel, making it accessible to those who struggle through most non-fiction.
Louis Zamperini was born in Torrance, CA in 1917. He spent his childhood causing mischief, stealing, and being the most unruly child ever encountered. His older brother, Pete, told Louie something that would carry him through the roughest times of his life: “If you can take it, you can make it.” Pete began training Louie for the track team. With Pete’s coaching, Louie became the fastest high school kid in America. He succeeded in qualifying for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he raced the 5000m event and earned 8th place before enlisting in the army, where he became a bombardier. Louie’s plane crashed on a rescue mission, killing all but two others in his crew. The men spent 47 days adrift at sea before being captured by the Japanese.
I finished Unbroken at 11pm on Saturday night because I HAD to finish it. I couldn’t leave Louie in those camps any longer. We were wasting away on the raft together, suffering on Execution Island, fearing for our lives at Ofuna…but all the while, Louie never gave up. He was defiant and held to his incredible strength and, even when we thought we wouldn’t survive another minute, Louie persevered. A few weeks ago I came across a Buzzfeed article titled “31 Books That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity” with Unbroken making the list. All the heartbreaking news lately about random and school shootings and ISIS attacks inspired us in the library to create our own list and display titled “74 Books That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity”. The list includes our favorite titles that remind us of the goodness in humanity. Our collection includes books by Nicholas Sparks, some Laurie Halse Anderson, non-fiction by Fr. Jim Martin, and many more.
On Sunday, I had to see the film directed by Angelina Jolie. Yes, reading the book before seeing the movie practically guarantees disappointment, but I had to know what many people’s only impression of Louis Zamperini would be. Honestly, the film didn’t do Louie’s story justice. I found myself commentating throughout the entire movie about Louie’s childhood mischief and the horrors that were left off the screen. Poor Chris had to sit through my rants (He says that they made the movie better, but I think he’s humoring me).
Louis Zamperini was an inspiration to all. Most of us will never know the smallest fraction of the pain that he experienced as a prisoner of war in World War II, and we can’t empathize with him, but we can recognize his unbelievable spirit and draw strength and comfort from his story.