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Louis Zamperini was a bit of a troublemaker as a kid, but when he discovered running as a teen, he shaped up and took control of his life. With the help of his devoted brother, Zamperini began setting records and even made it to the Olympics in 1936. Then he went to war.
In Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of Zamperini’s life, with particular focus on his time in the war. As a bombardier during World War II, Zamperini fought the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean until his plane went down during a search for a lost aircraft. What follows is an odyssey that takes Zamperini from one horror to another. And in every case, he proves to be a survivor.
This is an amazing story of a truly amazing man. First he survives a plane crash. Then he survives being on a life raft for 47 days, only to fall into the hands of the Japanese who put him in POW camps that I wish were a figment of the author’s imagination. The details of the way the Japanese treated POWs during World War II are atrocious. As a matter of fact, this was the biggest discussion during my book club meeting. Everyone in the group was shocked at the actions of the Japanese during this war. There are so many books and stories about the Nazis but I’ve never encountered the story of the torture that the Japanese inflicted upon so many POWs.
Despite the harsh topic, this book is definitely filled with hope. For a man to survive what Zamperini did, and to persevere in the future, is truly amazing. In addition, Hillenbrand’s tone throughout the book is more factual than emotional, and while this would sometimes be considered a negative, I think it works very well in this case to leave a bit of space between the reader and the horrors being described.
I highly recommend this book for book clubs as there are many interesting topics for discussion. I also recommend it for anyone who enjoys biographies and war stories, of course.