Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Wow. That was a fantastic book.

After several months of fitting it in the cracks between all of my reading for school, homework, and studying for the MCAT, I finally finished Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, author previously of Seabiscuit.

This is the true story of Louis Zamperini, a hooligan growing up in Torrance, CA (!), an Olympic runner, a WWII bombardier, a survivor of a plane crash in the Pacific ocean (floating on a raft with virtually no supplies for months), POW in Japan (where he was singled out for especially poor treatment, partially because of his celebrity status due to his Olympic career), post-War drunk, convert at a Billy Graham crusade, mentor to troubled youth, and man of Christ.

This book is packed full of riveting history, information, and anecdotes. Zamperini’s personal story is itself fascinating and well worth the read, but I learned just as much about the Pacific theater of WWII. In fact, learning about just how brutally the Japanese treated their POWs (much worse than POWs in the European theater were treated) was quite disturbing.

One aspect of Zamperini’s story that was especially interesting was his dramatic conversion to Christianity. After the War, Zamperini was consumed with hatred and thoughts of revenge, particularly against one Japanese guard which had treated him especially poorly. He had gotten married and had a child, but he was getting drunker by the day, and his behavior was violent and filled with anger. His wife convinced him to attend a Billy Graham crusade, and he was resistant at first, but the second time he went back, he remembered the promises he had made God when he was stranded on that raft in the Pacific ocean; God had provided then, and Zamperini had completely forgotten his promises until now. The way Hillenbrand tells it, Zamperini’s life had an almost immediate turnaround. His hatred was gone, and his heart was filled instead with forgiveness. This portion of the story is given a relatively smaller part of the book, and, from what I gather, Zamperini elaborates more in his autobiography, Devil At My Heels.

Hillenbrand’s writing is superbly engaging, and I highly recommend this book.

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