Sunday, January 08, 2012


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

If not for so much documented historical research, the events of Louis Zamperini's life would seem unbelievable. After a life of mischief as a boy turned Olympic runner, he proceeds to join the military during WWII and becomes a bombardier involved in a number of bombing raids. While on a rescue mission, his plane crashes and he survives for weeks on a life raft. He and 2 other members of the plane's crew floated on the raft with scant provisions, dehydration, sharks and enemy fire to deal with. They are finally picked up by a Japanese ship and subsequently placed in a POW camp.

While imprisoned, they undergo torture incorporating hunger, sickness, dehydration, and both psychological and physical abuse, much at the hands of a man called The Bird. The Bird took special pleasure in tormenting Zamperini and made his life horrific while a prisoner. Incredibly, as the date for their mass execution approaches, the war comes to an end and they are released.

When Zamperini returns to the U.S., he is hailed as a hero come back from the dead and gets married shortly afterward. He then proceeds to flounder from one job to the next and sinks into alcoholism as he deals with the horrors of war. With his marriage on the rocks, a seemingly random interaction with a neighbor, introduces them to the evangelist Billy Graham who was holding meetings in Los Angeles at that time.

After his wife attends without him, he grudgingly joins her at a later date. He is unable to shake the pull of God on his life and becomes a Christian. Through this experience he finds peace and is subsequently able to forgive his captors and move on with life, becoming a Christian speaker and eventually starting a camp for troubled youth.

Hillenbrand did a remarkably thorough job of researching Zamperini's life and the surrounding events in great detail. The book reads like a novel rather than dry non-fiction. I highly recommend the book as an outstanding account of an incredible life.

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