Review of Unbroken

Every once in awhile, even an admitted bibliophile will read a book that makes you pause and say, "Wow." Such a book you read gently, maybe only allowing yourself a few pages at a time so you will not finish it too quickly. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is just such a book.

If you've read, or seen, Seabiscuit you are familiar with her writing.  Until you have read Unbroken, you will not understand the power of her writing.

Life's foibles will not seem to matter after you have read this incredible journey.

As always--feel free to leave comments.

-Steve

Available at Amazon.com
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption [Hardcover]
by Laura Hillenbrand
496 pages, $27.00
ISBN-13: 978-1400064168
Nonfiction

Review by Steven King, MBA, MEd

In 1936, Adolf Hitler had hoped that the Berlin Olympic Games would prove German superiority to the spectators of the world. Little did he know that track legend Jesse Owens, an African American superstar, would break eleven world records at that very game.  Another lesser known Olympian caught Hitler’s attention that day, as well.  Louis Zamperini, an unknown American runner, completed the last lap of the 5000 meter race in a mere 56 seconds.  Upon meeting Zamperini Hitler remarked, “ Ah, you’re the boy with the fast finish.” Such words would prove to be prophetic – Zamperini indeed has had a fast finish but survived inordinate atrocities to get there. Laura Hillenbrand, made famous by her book Seabiscuit, has marvelously captured his journey in Unbroken.

A passion for running had dampened the dereliction of youth, so much so that many felt Zamperini would be the first to break the elusive four-minute mile barrier.  Subsequent to the Berlin games, life took Louis to the University of Southern California, where he earned the moniker “Torrance Tornado” as he broke many national records.   Although an accomplished collegiate runner, a decision to join the U.S. Air Corps during World War II would alter his life forever.

The military was a good match for Zamperini—who found himself manning the bombardier section of a B-24 Liberator aircraft. During a low level search mission, his plane crashed and he faced the ardor of life adrift the Pacific for 47 days. Like a stanza taken from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", he and his pilot endured little to eat or drink. Inevitably, an albatross lit on their craft and was killed to bring needed nourishment.  According to an old sailors’ tale, killing an Albatross disrespected the souls of those lost at sea and was certain to bring bad luck. Zamperini had no idea…

After being fished from the waters by the Japanese in Marshall Islands, Zamperini began a two year trek where he suffered and was tortured by the Japanese in their POW camps. Unbroken captures his resolve and resiliency, the fodder that spurs men toward survival. Even the intemperance of a guard whose life mission was to break Zamperini fails…Zamperini emerges hurt but unbroken.

Returning to the states, Zamperini has a difficult adjustment to life. Nothing will eradicate his nightmares of his tormentors, until Fate places his life on the upswing.  If you are in the mood for an excellent book, Unbroken is for you.  It is well written, provocative, and moving – you will want to read it slowly to savor every word.

Louis Zamperini proves the lines of Chilean poet and politician, Pablo Neruda in “Ode to Broken Things”:
Life goes on grinding up  
glass, wearing out clothes  
making fragments  
breaking down  
forms  
and what lasts through time  
is like an island on a ship in the sea,  
perishable  
surrounded by dangerous fragility  
by merciless waters and threats. 

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