Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

I don’t usually read books about war, and I’d never heard of the subject of this book, Louis Zamperini.  However, since I read and enjoyed Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit several years ago, I decided to try her new book, and found it an inspiring and exciting tale.

It describes Louie’s life as an incorrigible child and teenager, an Olympic runner, and a war hero.  He survived a plane crash, followed by 47 days on a raft in the Pacific, where he subsisted on the occasional raw fish or bird and on rain water, and was threatened by sharks, Japanese bullets, and a typhoon.  Finally reaching land, he faced the horrors of the Japanese POW camps.  In one of these camps, Louie encountered a Japanese corporal nicknamed “The Bird,” who immediately hated and mercilessly mistreated him.  Louie was finally freed, had his fill of good food, returned to the U.S., and married a beautiful young woman.  However, the Bird terrorized him in his dreams, and he suffered from what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder.  At last, when it seemed that Louie, after surviving the war, would be destroyed by this new challenge, an amazing change came into his life.  Now in his 90s, Louis is alive and well and able to tell his fascinating story.

Much of my interest in Unbroken came from the level of detail.  Hillenbrand interviewed Louis about seventy-five times, discovering that Louis’ facts, remembered for as long as 85 years, proved accurate when cross-checked against written records.  She also interviewed numerous other people who knew parts of Louis’ story.  This is a masterful biography!

(Helen Snow, Information Services)

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