Book #19: Unbroken

My third book for my book flight is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I’ve heard much praise about this author (who also wrote Seabiscuit) and in particular this biography, which became a movie in 2014, but this 500+ page book was quite intimidating. Now that I’ve developed an appreciation for nonfiction, I was determined to get through this one and am so glad I did. Hillenbrand’s work, the culmination of seven years’ research, depicts in great detail the life of Louis Zamperini. A headstrong boy from California, he was such a fast runner it was predicted he would be the first man to break the 4 minute mile. He competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but before he could attempt to break that mile boundary, he became a bomber in the Army Air Forces during World War II. His incredible tale is almost unbelievable – after his bomber crashes as sea, he and some crewman drift over two thousand miles in the Pacific ocean and are picked up by the Japanese. As a prisoner of war, he is shuffled from camp to camp, seeing and enduring horrific, dehumanizing treatment by his captors. He survives to the war’s end and, once the POW camps are liberated, returns home, only to carry his traumatizing experiences with him. He marries, but struggles with nightmares, flashbacks, lingering physical damage, and adjustment to civilian life, finding forgetfulness in alcohol. But the most fascinating part of this book, and why I loved it so, was that he heard the preaching of Billy Graham and became a Christian. An alcoholic and on the verge of divorce, his life radically changed. He was able to look back over all the trauma and horrors he had endured and see God’s protective hand leading him through it. He spent the rest of his life telling his story at speaking engagements and caring for at-risk boys. Riveting, horrifying, and inspiring, Zamperini’s life was an amazing testimony to the grace of God even amid unimaginable horrors.

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