Thursday, December 19, 2013

Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

This book strays from my typical teen fiction/fantasy/paranormal romance novel, and I have to say that I was a bit worried about it at first. I was assigned to read this book in my English 101 class and while most other students in English 101 were reading The Working Poor by David K. Shipler, my professor assigned my class Unbroken. Boy am I glad she did!

I didn't want to read this particular book for class, because I thought that, because it was assigned, I'd hate it. I'm incredibly relieved that I was wrong. I have to say that this book made me want to read more nonfiction. It also made me want to take a WWII history class again. 

I love history, and Louie's story is so meticulously and artfully documented that I felt as though I was on the raft and at the camps with Louie and the other PoWs. I connected with Louie's mother and the rest of his family while they waited, patiently for news from, or about Louie. By the end of this book, I felt like I knew Louie, and that he became (as many fictional characters do) an essential part of me.

Hillenbrand did a miraculous job researching and documenting Louie's story and, once I'd finished reading it, I wanted to read it again and again! If you haven't read Unbroken and are looking for a good nonfiction story, I'd definitely check it out. Although it might help to know a little about WWII beforehand. 

5/5 stars 

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