Friday, September 25, 2015

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

Most people know the story that is documented in Unbroken: Louis Zamperini was a wild boy whose energy was eventually channeled into running. He won medals at the Berlin Olympics and was a track star at USC. Once the United States entered World War II, Louis joined the Army Air Corps. His bomber ended up in the Pacific Ocean; incredibly, Louie and his pilot survived on a life raft for a month and a half. Rescued by the Japanese, they became POWs, facing two years of deprivation and cruelty. Louie became the particular target of a sadistic guard known as "Bird."

What happened when the war ended is perhaps less well known (and gets many fewer pages in the book): Louie for several years struggled with flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms of PTSD, self-medicating with alcohol. He was saved by an experience with Billy Graham, dedicating the remainder of his life to Christianity and operating a camp for troubled boys.

Reading this book took me almost three months. I know it makes me sound like an inhuman and uncaring person but I was bored. The book is meticulously researched but for me it just felt flat. I was more interested in Louie's life after the war, but that phase of his life was not Hillenbrand's primary focus. Several other members of Novel Conversations LOVED this book and it won numerous prizes and accolades, so I am clearly in the minority. . .not for the first time.

Favorite passage:
The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer.

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