I was excited to pick up the latest selection for the KC Public Library’s Stranger than Fiction book club a couple weeks ago: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. I was looking forward to discussing it at the monthly meeting, since I couldn’t make it the last couple of months, but unfortunately it was canceled due to other things happening at the library… and and I can’t make the make-up meeting, boo! Oh well. I’m still glad I read it. I’m also counting Unbroken as my start-reading-a-third-book goal for the Bout of Books 7.0 read-a-thon.
Unbroken is a biography of Louie Zamperini, a former Olympian runner from California, who faced one harrowing situation after another during his service in the Air Force during World War II, and the physical/emotional consequences following the war. After his plane is gunned down in the middle of the Pacific, Louie is one of three survivors who drift for weeks on end, battling storms, sharks, thirst, hunger, and insanity. You think, “that’s the worst ever!” and THEN, they come upon an island that is, of course, occupied by Japan, where they are interrogated, enslaved, tortured, and starved for years.
I don’t want to spoil it, but re-reading my description up there—I just want to say that Unbroken is not an all-around downer. The aftermath of the war for the veterans is the saddest part, and that’s no secret—depression, alcoholism, PTSD, etc. Louie and his friends’ tenacity, inner strength, and perseverance through these trying times were humbling and inspiring. I didn’t particularly buy that Louie “saw the light” in only two sessions of a commercial evangelist’s show… but I’m glad for the outcome for Louie. He has had a truly remarkable life, and is still going strong at age 97 in 2013!
Now that I’m writing this post over Memorial Day weekend, I feel even more grateful to have read this book—I really had no idea how horrible the conditions were at Pacific POW camps. Reading Unbroken gave me an even deeper appreciation the service and sacrifices our military—current and veteran—make every day.
Read from May 18 to 23, 2013.