Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Publisher: Random House
Published: November 16, 2010
Hardcover: 473 pages
Source: personal copy
My Rating: 5 stars
Synopsis (from goodreads.com): 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 a 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 trial 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. In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity,Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
My Thoughts: Sometimes, it's hard to figure out if the book that I'm reading is great because of the writing or the story. It's usual one or the other, but in Unbroken, it's both. Laura Hillenbrand recounts the life of Louis Zamperini, an American boy who grew up during the Great Depression with an incredible athleticism that carried him all the way to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Zamperini was like any other youth growing up, a bit michevious but good-hearted. He loved his family, especially his older brother, Pete. They were always in cahoots together over something, including his athletic career. Upon returning from the Berlin Olympics medal-less, Zamperini vowed that he would not only make it to the 1940 games in London, but that he would win gold and set the fastest mile record on earth. Unfortunately, WWII started and Louis would never return to compete in an Olympic game. Instead, he was drafted in the Army Air Forces to protect our country and our allies.
I don't want to talk about his story too much because it's something that I feel can only be truly appreciated by reading the book. There were so many times that I was shocked by what was happening to Louis, times where I was outraged, times where I was hopeful. I felt like I was right there alongside Louis, experiencing all of this with him. That's how good of a writer Hillenbrand is. This is a true story and yet it reads almost like a work of fiction. I enjoy reading about WWII but reading this book was difficult at times. To learn what soldiers sacrificed for us makes me so proud to be an American and I dare anyone to read this book and not feel the same. If you have not read a piece of narrative nonfiction, then this is the perfect book to start with. It will pull you into the action of the Pacific theater and inside Louis' struggles and triumphs. This is one of the best books that I have read in quite sometime, and I think most people will feel the same way.