Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Published by Random House
In 1943, right in the heart of World War Two, an Army Air Forces plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean and disappeared. Louis Zamperini was a lieutenant on that plane and somehow, miraculously, he survived the crash and ended up on a life raft, fighting the elements for his survival. Unbroken is the story of his miraculous journey.
I don’t think I would have decided to read Unbroken if it weren’t for book club. And I have to be honest and say that I didn’t love this book, although it seems that I am in quite the minority with this opinion. To be fair, there were things I liked about the book and once it got going, I couldn’t put it down. But the beginning was such that had it not been a book club selection, I wouldn’t have made it past the first 100 pages.
The reason I say this is because I simply couldn’t bring myself to care about Zamperini as a person for the entire first section of the book. Hillenbrand recounts his childhood in exquisite detail, and to be honest, he was not a very good kid. He wasn’t just a misbehaving child, he was a juvenile delinquent! And while reading about his time in the Olympics was mildly interesting, it didn’t add enough to his personality for me to care about him. At our book club meeting, some of the ladies were saying that after finishing Unbroken, it’s clear why Hillenbrand spent so much time detailing Zamperini’s childhood, and while I’d agree with that statement, the fact of the matter is that as I was reading it I wasn’t interested. So for me, that was a problem.
But once the action really got going – when the plane crashed and Zamperini and two others were stranded in the middle of the ocean – I couldn’t put the book down. This story is absolutely astonishing as these men survived impossible odds and lived through situations that I cannot even fathom. Their story is beyond remarkable and kudos to Hillenbrand for telling it. I think she told it in a fascinating and compelling way and I was hanging on her every word. It was heartbreaking to read, because every time I would think their journey through hell and back was over, something even worse would happen. It was excruciating! But this is truly a story of courage and of surviving the absolute worst odds one can imagine. It’s inspiring.
While I enjoyed the majority of Unbroken and would still recommend it, I have to be honest about my reservations with the beginning of the book. I personally would have stopped reading this book after fifty or so pages had it not been for book club, which is a shame. This is an engaging and important read about a truly amazing man, and even though I had some trouble with it, I would still recommend Unbroken.