Monday, March 14, 2011

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand



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

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.


Phyllis Winn said...

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!

Sharon Wilfong said...

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.:)

Renee said...

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

Sharon Wilfong said...

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

Glynis said...

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

Sharon Wilfong said...

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

gautami tripathy said...

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!

Sharon Wilfong said...

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

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

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. :)

Sharon Wilfong said...

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

K. Shawn Edgar said...

Hey, thank you. I must read this now.

Sharon Wilfong said...

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

NCSue said...

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”: - a page listing hops for every day of the week - a list of charities which are highly rated for using your charitable donations for the purpose you intended - a page for recipes – and there are some great ones here - day one of a week-long series examining the death penalty - one of my more popular posts: “Expletive deleted? THANK YOU VERY MUCH!”

Thank you, and have a great week!


Kristin said...

Sounds GREAT! So glad I read this review!!

Stumbled you...would love if you could stumble me back:

Kristin :)

LifeBelowZero said...

stumbled here:

Sharon Wilfong said...

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

Anonymous said...

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.

Sharon Wilfong said...

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.

Elle said...

Stumbled this post.

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

Angel said...

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!!!

Chasing Serenity

Sharon Wilfong said...

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!

Must see Noblesville Roofing said...

Hillenbrand has once again found herself a perfect subject (Zamperini told her that it would be easier to write about him than Seabiscuit because he, at least, could talk), and again has demonstrated her skill in constructing a highly compelling story, vividly drawing upon the memories of a large cast of friends and family and former enemies. "Unbroken" is a marvelous book.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi MSNR: I have not read Seabiscuit yet but I have the book. I look forward to reading it. Hopefully it won't be a let down after Unbroken.

Jeannette said...

I appreciated Seabiscuit and Unbroken immensely...and then reading about the health struggles of Laura Hillenbrand as she was writing...well she is unbroken and a champion herself.

Reading is a wonder, yes, but you must have much younger eyes than I . I shall poke around your blog more as able. Best to you in 2018.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Jeannette. Thanks for visiting my blog. I agree, Laura Hillenbrand is an inspiration. I wonder if I would have such stamina.

As for youth. I now must read with glasses but as long as I'm able I will read.

Have a wonderful new year!

Carol said...

Hi Sharon, I can’t remember the context but recently I heard/read something along similar lines to your comment on 1000 Paper Cranes. I may have mentioned this before but when you talk to people who lived during WW2 or had relatives fighting in the Pacific, they still struggle with the atrocities. My husband’s grandma is turning 99 this year & since the war she has refused to buy anything made in Japan! Their memories are burned into their daily lives.

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI Carol. Wow. That is interesting about your husband's grandmother.

Ironically, and she probably did not read this review, but one of my oldest friends is Japanese and her father fought in WWII. When she told him she was marrying an American G.I. he slapped her across her face.

Years later on his death bed, she sat by his side and read the Bible to him. Before he died he gave his life to Christ.

Carol said...

❤️ When you’ve believed your leaders to be gods I’d imagine it would be very difficult to accept they’re wrong. I don’t know if she read Unbroken as she lives in NZ.