Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review: Unbroken

Since starting a year-long World War II study  with my 12-year-old, I've been told many times that I must read Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I am so glad I finally did.

This is the true story of Louis Zamperini, a punk kid turned Olympic athlete turned bombardier—and then POW. Zamperini's story is an incredible story of strength, faith, and determination on so many levels. After his plane crashes into the sea while searching for another plane, Zamperini and two other men survive and drift in a tiny raft for 47 days, drinking only rainwater, eating birds and an occasional fish, and fighting off sharks. One man dies, and eventually Zamperini and Phil wash up on land, only to find themselves at the mercy of the Japanese.

For the next two and a half years, Zamperini endures unbelievable atrocities at the hands of his Japanese captors. Although nearly all the guards are brutal, Louis becomes the particular favorite of Mutsuhiro "The Bird" Watanabe, a psychotic sadist who finds particular pleasure in torturing Louis. Starved and diseased in general, Louis endures daily beatings that leave him unconscious and psychological battering that leave him terrified but determined to survive.

When the camp was liberated in 1945, the 700 men were skeletons, battered almost beyond recognition. Louis had been pronounced dead years before, but his family refused to believe it. The world was shocked and skeptical to hear that this beloved Olympic athlete was still alive. But Louis has years of torture still to come, as his life after the war was haunted by The Bird.

To say this was an incredible story is an understatement. I don't often weep while reading, but I wept during many parts of this book. What these men endured is just mind-boggling—and how their captors could be so cruel is equally mind-boggling. It is uplifting to see how the human spirit can be so resilient, yet terrifying to imagine the flip side of that: that humans can be so vicious and inhumane.

Don't miss this book. It is an incredible story, and in spite of the subject matter, an incredibly uplifting one.

More World War II books reviewed here.


Literary Feline said...

I really want to read this, especially after reading your review. Besides being interested in this time period, I'm particularly fond of survival stories like this these days. This sounds like a must read book.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

This is truly one of the best books I've EVER read.