UNBROKEN: BY HILLENBRAND, LAURA
A story of Louie Zamperini, born to Italian immigrants in America, who is a hero, and a survivor facing some of the toughest challenges any man can face and come back to live life stronger than ever before. Its an awe inspiring tale of a boy who is a miscreant, a prankster, a thief, an Olympic runner, a world war 2 soldier, a lost at sea survivor, a prisoner at war in Japanese camps, an alcoholic who finally showed so many people hope and showed the path of God and belief.
It’s a roller coaster ride reading this book. Hillenbrand has done impeccable research and written it beautifully.
His tales as a prankster make you laugh and feel for his parents. He was stubborn and smart, and a fast runner from his victims. He used to get thrilled by breaking boundaries and exasperating everyone around him. He had a sharp mind and a way to outsmart everyone.
His older brother, Pete, perhaps knew it was imperative to show him direction and focus his energy. He inspired him to run professionally. At first Louie finds it difficult and yet he loved the attention he got from girls. His ambitions were simple. Good food and girls! He continued to run that took him to the Olympics.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is when Pete wrote to his brother on his selection for the Olympics, “I have to go around with my shirt open so that I have enough room for my chest.” The bond the Zamperini family shared is visible just from the above line.
Soon after the Olympics held in Germany Louie had to join the air force. He was trained for bombsights. He flew the B-24 liberator named Superman by the crew, flown by Russell Allen Philips. Though everyone detested the B-24’s Phil and Louie called it their “home” and “a dear friend”. I loved the way Hillenbrand described how Louie thought of Superman and his attachment for the craft. Superman had never failed them. In fact the last time they flew it and lost a crew member in the attack, there’s a picture of Louie looking at the gaping holes in it after they reached back. It was a beautiful image and left a mark on me.
One of their missions in another craft (Superman had left them a while ago) it crashed and the survivors; drifted along in their rafts. This part of Louie’s journey touched me the most. Louie realized that the body could stay without food but the mind cant stay without occupation. He survived over a month drifting in the open waters solely on his focus of keeping his mind alert.
Japanese war camp where Louie and Phil were captives took a toll on their body and mind. Where on the raft he learnt that the body could survive without food, here he realized the soul couldn’t survive without hope. And torture after torture his mind couldn’t take it. There are moments that while reading all I would want is to miraculously save him. Hillenbrand mentions about Japan’s war camps, “Iron must be broken while its hot; soldiers must be beaten while they’re fresh”. With this theory he met his nemesis, Mutsuhiro Watanabe. He feared the man like no other. It was harsh and brutal and it made him a weaker man by the end.
Once the war was won and returned home he got nightmare of his tormentors especially of Watanabe. He took to drinking so much so that soon he was a chronic alcoholic. The war had taken a toll.
His wife tried to help him and finally he saw the path of the Lord and took to inspiring many lost souls in the world.
Researched and written very well by Hillenbrand, it’s a true story of courage, of facing harsh realities, of losing hope and finding it again. This book is definitely a must read. I enjoyed it very much. And Louie Zamperini is definitely a quirky boy that i fell in love with.
For those who may want to know more and perhaps don’t enjoy biographies much wait for the movie “Unbroken” directed by Angelina Jolie. Hopefully it will be as good as the book. I do have my reservations for movie adaptations and yet the trailer does look quite good.
Note: though I have quoted Hillenbrand a few times it is possible that I may have written unconsciously somethings that she may have worded differently.
I have written briefly what I enjoyed most and an extrememly short account of his journey.