Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Review for Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

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






Wow.

All I can say is wow.

How do you describe such a book as Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand?
Louie Zamperini was the son of Italian immigrants who moved from the east coast to the west for the sake of their son's health. Louie repaid his parents by doing his utmost to be the most dreaded hood of his neighborhood. When he wasn't getting into fights, he was stealing from the neighbors. When he was doing neither of those he was playing pranks on everyone.

This might have led Louie straight to a juvenile detention center if his older brother Pete had not stepped in. Pete determined that Louie was going to be a runner. The first section of this book details how a two bit delinquint from a small town in Cailifornia made his way to the Olympics in Germany in 1936. He was the youngest runner there. He didn't win but he knew he had another chance in 1940.

Only he didn't.

WWII broke out and Louie found himself as a bombadier on a B-24. The second section of the book gives us an exciting description of Louie's life in the Army Air Corps. This section is fascinating for its detail of life as a soldier during the war if nothing else.

But there is something else.

Louie's plane crashed in the ocean. He and two others survived on a raft for a month and a half. I could hardly read this section it was so intense. When the men weren't being scorched by the heat and starved, they were trying to avoid being shot at by strafe shooters or attacked by sharks. Louie described feeling the backs of the sharks as they swam underneath the rafts.

Two sharks about eight feet long, were placidly circling the raft....Curious, he dropped a hand into the water and laid it lightly on a passing shark, feeling its back and dorsal fin as it slid beneath him. Beautiful, he thought.....


He was kneeling there, perched over the edge of the raft, when one of the sharks that he had touched leapt from the water at terrific speed, mouth wide open, lunging straight at his head....(pg. 160, 161)

You'll have to read the book to find out how that resolves. Hee, hee.

Finally, the raft makes it to an island and the two surviving men (one died on the raft) collapse in relief on the shore.

But not for long.

The island is occupied by Japanese soldiers. This next section is the most dreadful portion of the entire book. Louie now embarks on the darkest hours of his life. I'm sure he believed that he had descended into hell.

As I read these chapters of Louie's life as a POW and how he was mercilessly tormented by the Japanese guards I couldn't help but think of a children's book that is in school libraries. It's titled, One Thousand Paper Cranes. It's a story about a Japanese girl who develops Leukemia as a result of the Atomic bomb radiation from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's a very sad and touching story and also a very effective piece of propaganda calculated to make Americans feel that we were wrong to bomb Japan in WWII.

Well, I suggest all those people who have had their emotions manipulated by that book read Unbroken. You won't feel responsible for anyone in Japan getting cancer due to an act by America that effectively ended a war that had already left millions dead.

In its rampage over the east, Japan had brought atrocity and death on a scale that staggers the imagination.. Japan held some 132,000 POWs...of those, nearly 36,000 died, more than one in every four. More than 37% of American POWs died. By comparison only 1 percent held by Nazis and Italians died.


In accordance with the kill-all order, the Japanese massacred all 5,000 Korean captives on Tinian, all of the POWs on Ballale, Wake and Tarawa... they were evidently about to murder all the other POWs and civilian internees in their custody when the atomic bomb brought their empire crashing down. (pg. 314, 315)

Then the aftermath.

Hillenbrand, in the penultimate section of her book, writes in heart-rending detail the challenges the POWs faced in learning how to live a normal life back home after being treated like an animal for four years.

Well, it doesn't happen. No one goes back to normal. Normal is gone.

Louie deals with it by drinking heavily and being abusive. He falls in love and gets married but that doesn't make his nightmares go away.

But that's not the end of the story.

The last part of this book is, to me, the most powerful and most moving. I don't want to give it away, but once again, God shows how his transforming love changes despair to hope, hatred to love, and the desire for vengeance into the ability to forgive.

I highly recommend this book and NO publisher gave it to me for my honest review. I bought it myself and I recommend you do too.

For more reviews on WWII:
The Navajo Code Talkers
The Secret Holocaust Diaries
On Hitler's Mountain and In My Hands
The Whisperers

If you do, please buy it through my blog so I can get a small percentage back.





Post Script:  I wrote this blog before the terrible disaster occurred in Japan this last week.  Let's keep the Japanese in our prayers as they deal with this horrible catastrophe.

CymLowell

21 comments:

  1. I'm the type of reader that frequently reads the ending first and then the rest of the book.
    (I will also listen to part 2 of radio programs, and then go back to part 1 if part 2 was really good, and if I have the time.)
    I know there are other people who read this way. Reading your review made my adrenalin kick in. Made me want to go grab the book off the rack and read the ending while standing in the store/ library!

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  2. Phyllis: When my mom described the book as she was reading it, I knew I couldn't wait to borrow it so I bought it and read it in three days. I simply could not put it down. I think the ending would have a greater impact if you made yourself read it from the beginning and work your way there, however.:)

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  3. I just picked this book up today! Now I'm eager to begin reading . . .

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  4. You'll have a hard time putting it down. Have a great weekend.

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  5. My favorite place is the book store. That's where I go to escape so I will be visiting often.
    New follower from 40 and over hop.
    Hope you come visit me and have a laugh at http://momsinvent.blogspot.com/

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  6. I live in bookstores. Thanks for visiting. I'll be visiting back.

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  7. Good to find your blog. I arrived here via Follow Friday 40 and over!

    I am a book blogger. I read varied genres, have a truly eclectic taste in books. Feel free to explore my blog, browse my reviews. I follow via google reader NOT GFC!

    Here is my Book Blogger Hop/Follow Friday post!

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  8. gautami: Thanks for visiting. I'll definitely come by and see what you've got!

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  9. The first part of the summary sounds so familiar to me. I know I haven't read the book, but I'm pretty sure my sister might have lent it to me, but I didn't get a chance to read it. Thanks for the in depth review. :)

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  10. Hi Amanda, I hope you can read the rest of the book. It'll be worth your time. Have a great weekend!

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  11. Hey, thank you. I must read this now.

    http://kshawnedgar.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/field-of-play/

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  12. You won't regret it. Have a great weekend.

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  13. Hi there.

    I “stumbled” the post you have at Makobi Scribe's new hop, and I ask you to return the favor. I put up the following links on her “stumble hop”:


    http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/p/blog-hop-for-every-day-of-week.html - a page listing hops for every day of the week

    http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/p/help-make-world-better-place.html - a list of charities which are highly rated for using your charitable donations for the purpose you intended

    http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/p/here-are-some-great-recipes-to-try.html - a page for recipes – and there are some great ones here

    http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/2010/11/taking-faith-behind-bars.html - day one of a week-long series examining the death penalty

    http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/2011/03/expletive-deleted-thank-you-very-much.html - one of my more popular posts: “Expletive deleted? THANK YOU VERY MUCH!”

    Thank you, and have a great week!

    NCSue

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  14. Sounds GREAT! So glad I read this review!!

    Stumbled you...would love if you could stumble me back:
    http://www.keenlykristin.com/2011/04/please-help-lizzie-get-her-wish.html

    Thanks!
    Kristin :)

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  15. stumbled here: http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fsharonhenning.blogspot.com%2F2011%2F03%2Fbook-review-for-unbroken-by-laura.html&title=Gently+Mad%3A+Book+Review+for+Unbroken+by+Laura+Hillenbrand

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  16. @Kristin, Thanks for visiting. I stumbled you back!

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  17. Wow, what a powerful review.
    I have such mixed emotions about WWII. My husband is half Japanese- his mother is from Japan and is father was an orthodox Jew who fought in WWII to try and save some of his relatives who were being held in camps. It is such a dark time in history.
    I stumbled you. Can't wait to read more of your reviews.
    Stefanie
    http://weddedblisster.blogspot.com/

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  18. Thanks, NCSUE. I've stumbled you as well. I couldn't find where to leave a comment on your blog so I hope you're getting a follow up comment from me.

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  19. Stumbled this post.

    I couldn't find any place to comment on NCSUE either. I did stumble at least one of her posts.

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  20. You have been Stumbled. I am absolutely Gently Mad :-) I love books, Borders is my favorite store! I am very lucky also to have a wonderful, huge(4 Story) used bookstore about 20 minutes from me. I just love going and walking around, the smell of books is the best smell in the world. I will absolutely have to pick up this book, it sounds intense. I am following you in all ways available as well. :-)

    Have a great weekend!!!

    Angel
    Chasing Serenity

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  21. Wow, Angel! Why can't people like you live near me? Unfair. Thanks for visiting, stumbling and following. I'm off to visit your blog now!

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I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.