In the field of non-fiction, Laura Hillenbrand has distinguished herself with the bestseller Seabiscuit. In a relatively short space of time her latest blockbuster Unbroken came on the scene. Subtitled “A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption,” Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini.
The author, who did exhaustive research on this book, collaborated with Zamperini when he was in his 80’s to get all details possible. Since World War ll veterans are becoming fewer, it was important to note all the memories that could be retrieved. In this case Zamperini’s ordeal occurred in the Pacific when as an Army Air Force bombardier, he was shot down in 1943.
Zamperini and two other crew members were adrift on a makeshift life raft for weeks with basically no life-saving supplies, including food and water. They had to become resourceful and clever with what they could put together to catch fish and birds and even fight off encircling sharks. I think the killing and eating of an albatross or two was a bad luck move, however.
Unfortunately for these three, this was just the beginning of their ordeal. They were captured by the Japanese and sent to a series of POW camps, each worse than the one before. Because Zamperini was known as a world class runner, he was singled out for more intense punishment than the others.
Told in infinite detail, Unbroken is a testament to the human spirit which in this case survived under extreme duress. There are pictures throughout the book of Zamperini’s family, aircraft and fellow flyers. The author does not conclude the story with the end of the war and the POW’s release, but explains how difficult re-entry into civilian life was.
I remember watching “Victory at Sea” Sunday afternoons with its soaring music and battle scenes, but I never dreamed as a child that there were thousands of American POW’s held and abused at the same time.
Unbroken is a realistic look into one man’s experience that effected us all.
I give the book 4 life jackets.