Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Written by: Laura Hillenbrand
Narrated by: Edward Herrmann
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre: Biography, Memoir
My Rating: 5.0 of 5.0
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.
©2010 Laura Hillenbrand; 2010 Random House Audio
This is a biography/memoir portraying the remarkable life of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was an uncontrollable scamp of a boy. Although he exasperated his parents and sister, he was greatly loved. His older brother, Pete, was always trying to rein Louis in and direct his enthusiastic energy to better pursuits. Finally, Pete was able to encourage Louis to pour his energies into running. Louis became a running champion and did well at the German Olympics in 1936.
Zamperini was training for the next Olympics when America was drawn into WWII. Zamperini entered the aircorps and was deployed to the Pacific island of Funafuti where he served as a bombardier on a B-24 bomber named Super Man. Zamperini became good friends with the pilot,
"Phil" Phillips. The plane survived one remarkable enemy battle and returned with multiple bullet holes, putting it out of commission. Phil, Zamperini and their crew mates were sent on a rescue hunt in another plane that was known for mechanical problems. The plane had difficulties and Phil was forced to crash in the ocean. Eleven crew mates were killed or lost, leaving only three survivors, Phil, Louis and another young man, Mac.
The story follows their 47-day struggle to survive at sea without food and fresh water. Only Louis and Phil make it to land where they become Japanese prisoners of war under brutal and cruel wardens.
The story is remarkable and brings out a wide range of emotions. The portrayal of the struggle at sea is a frightening tale. The description of the P.O.W. experience is horrifying and heart wrenching. I have heard of these horrors and watched one or two movies. There is no way to read/listen to the abuses and atrocities without cringing. The author presents societal and psychological backgrounds/reasons to explain the treatment. It is still hard to understand, much less swallow.
The summary of this story is stated in the title: “Unbroken”. It made me cry, cringe and smile. It is well researched, richly written and shares the history of a remarkable man and several of his friends. I was impressed with how Zamperini came through the trials and how God used him. I recommend this to any reader who needs a story of courage, strength and forgiveness. Also recommended to any reader who wants to remember the horrors of war and hope that they never occur again.
Audio Notes: Edward Herrmann does a beautiful job with the narration. He shares different accents and voices but, even more impressively, he shares the intensity of the emotions that are portrayed by the story. The narration definitely contributed to the experience of the story for me.
I pulled this from my Audible TBR shelf. It qualifies for Mount TBR Challenge, Audio Challenge and "U" in Alphabet Challenge.