Friday, June 10, 2011

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I have read some good books this year, among my favorites: One Child, Night, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. None of them have stuck out quite like Unbroken.

Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zampernini. The book begins with Louie's childhood...and I thought Hannah was naughty. He jumped from a subway car when he was 2 years old and his mother frantically watched him grow smaller and smaller as the car chugged away, another time she had to take him to a neighbor's home to get a toe sewed back on, as a five year old he took up smoking discarded cigarettes and by 8 years old he was getting drunk regularly. Louie shaped up however, in his late teens and became a runner. He was so fast that it was assumed he'd be the first person to run the mile in under 4 minutes. He ran in the Olympics, placing 3rd (if I recall correctly) and was training for the 1944 Olympics in Japan when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He enlisted and became a bombardier.

The rest of the story talks about Louie, and several of his friends in war, including Russell Allen Phillips (Phil). After their B-24, the Superman, is shot down they are assigned to the Green Hornet to fly a rescue mission. Somewhere over the ocean something goes wrong, the Green Hornet goes down and Louie, Phil, and Mac find themselves surrounded by miles and miles of ocean and hundreds of sharks.

Surviving for 47 days off rainwater (when it came) birds, and fish, that they were able to capture and kill with some luck and ingenuity, they are finally found. By the Japanese.

The rest of the book is the unspeakable horror that awaited Louie at the POW camps, his will to survive, stories of the other men in the camp, how his celebrity status affected him in the camps, the days in Japan following the drop of the Atomic bombs, and finally, his survival back at home and how he coped with post traumatic stress. (One of the saddest accounts in the book to me is when he goes out to lunch with some friends who survived the POW camps and one of his friends is served white rice. The friend completely snaps and goes crazy until the plate of rice is taken away).

It was such an incredible book. I couldn't put it down. I cried reading of his devoted family at home who never gave up hope, even after his obituary appeared. I cried as he watched his friends die, I cried at his conviction and will to survive, and the difficulty to do so when the war was over. It was a story filled with hope, faith, and love, dispite the circumstances. I recommend it to almost anyone. Many people won't be able to stomach the stories of death and torture but if you feel you can, go read it!


Georgia said...

Wow, Unbroken sounds incredible. I'm not sure that I'm up to the torture and death that it contains, but I can't help but marvel at the country's greatest generation ever. Rob's Dad and both uncles served in different capacities in WWII. Those men dealt with some of the most trying experiences I've ever heard about. It makes my heart swell with gratitude to those brave and stalwart men who sacrificed so much in the fight for freedom and justice in the world.

Thank you for sharing your feelings concerning this book, Melissa.

P.S. Hannah is NOT naughty, she is busy.

Adam said...

Georgia, the beautiful part about this book is the way the author portrays every event. Her goal is not to gross out the reader with images of gore and wanton violence. In fact, the descriptions are matter-of-fact and I would be comfortable having a youth read the book. There is some profanity, but it too is limited to the identification of nicknames they give to guards.

Do not hesitate to pick up this book and begin reading. It will change the way you look at yourself and others. It is about 400 pages, but you will burn through them in a matter of days because you just have to know who lives and how they manage to survive through such dismal conditions.

It helped me realize that things in my life really could be a lot worse and made me grateful for what I have been blessed with. It also made me grateful for the soldiers that selflessly serve to protect our country (my dad, uncle, my best friend, and all 3 of my grandfathers included).