Book Review – Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Posted: July 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

Unbroken is the latest offering by Laura Hillenbrand, the woman who wrote Seabiscuit. Several of my friends and family have read this moving story, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

Now you have to understand, I am not a big fan of non-fiction, especially tragic non-fiction. I have spent a good part of my life trying to escape reality, so usually it is wild, crazy fiction for me. Zombies, robots, unrealistic action and adventure. This is where I live. Unbroken on the other hand, is pure unadulterated life and life at its worst. This book was hard to read at times, but oh so worth it.

Unbroken is the story of former Olympic runner, Louis Zamperini. After competing in the 1936 Olympics, Louie finds himself drafted into World War II as a bombardier on a “Flying Coffin”, otherwise known as a B-24 bomber. Throughout the course of the book, Zamperini finds himself shipwrecked, lost at sea, and then eventually a Japanese Prisoner of War. Hillenbrand is a meticulous researcher and she spares us none of the gruesome details of Louie’s time as a POW. However, as bad as his experiences are, his story really exemplifies the character qualities that are mentioned in the title. Throughout all the good and bad things that happened to Louis Zamperini during the course of his life and in particular his imprisonment, he survives beyond all odds, bounces back despite his circumstances, and finds redemption not only with his captors, but with all the others that share in his life. Redemption in this book also refers to the fact that Loius accepts Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade. The ultimate redemption: being brought back in to relations with his loving Heavenly father through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

My father-in-law both share the same view of the latter events. We wished Hillenbrand had delved more into Zamperini’s life after accepting Christ and his work with Billy Graham, however, the book was about his WWII experiences and his time with Christ and Graham certainly take place after WWII. She stuck to the time period faithfully, dedicating only a few chapters to Loius’ post-war experiences.

Hillenbrand has a great writing style that is informative, you not boring. I personally could have lived without all the grueling details of Louis’ detainment, but she writes about them in detail, and in doing so really drives home how much misery and woe one person can take and not give up. Resilience exemplified.

I highly recommend this as an essential read for anyone. Great book!

Up next: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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