Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

July’s book and movie review pertains to Unbroken (2010), by Laura Hillenbrand, the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner and World War II hero.

I “read” the book with my ears, mostly while I was doing errands around town. When I couldn’t wait any longer to get to the best part of the book, I brought the CDs back into the house and quickly listened to the remaining chapters.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The Book
Unbroken chronicles Louie’s life, starting with his childhood in Torrance, CA. Louie’s brother saw his potential as a runner and helped him to train for the Olympics. When war broke out, Louis served in the US Army on bombing missions, where he was shot down in the Pacific, clung to a raft at sea, and was captured by the enemy. A POW, Louis fought to survive in a string of POW camps, each one worse than the previous one. At the end of the war, when he was finally freed, Louis returned to the States, only to struggle with PTSD that took the form of flashbacks, anger, and alcoholism.

During the weeks that Louis was adrift at sea, he prayed that God would deliver him and promised again and again that if he got out alive, he would devote his life to God. But when he got back home, he forgot those promises until his wife talked him into going to hear the young Billy Graham. Louis went back every night and finally accepted God’s offer of forgiveness and new life. Louie’s life changed dramatically.

In an interview, Louis said that from the day he prayed to receive Jesus into his life, he never again suffered a flashback. On a smaller scale I related to his testimony; during a crisis of faith – when I became an agnostic – I experienced horrible nightmares about death that left me in a cold sweat. But after God brought me back to faith, my fears vanished and I never had another nightmare.

The biggest outward change for Louis was that he forgave his captors – in person. He flew back to Japan to meet his guards, told them he forgave them, and shook their hands.

The Movie
Unbroken the movie was difficult to watch at times because of the dehumanizing incidents that Louis faced, especially the violence, which in today’s films looks all too convincing. The movie didn’t cover as much of Louie’s life as the book, but Angelina Jolie nonetheless produced a memorable and inspiring movie that deepened my understanding of World War II and my parents’ generation.

Footage of Louis
I love watching videos of people I’ve “met” in books so that I can know them better.
* At age 97 Louis appeared on national TV with Angelina Jolie.
* Louis recounts his fury when he first heard Billy Graham.
* A decade after Louis became a Christian he gave a short testimony at a Billy Graham crusade.
* Louis reads the letter he wrote to the most brutal of his guards, Watanabe, whom the POWs called, The Bird, and who refused to meet with Louis in person.

(To see more interviews, all you have to do is google Youtube Zamperini.)

Who Would Like Unbroken
You’re in good hands when you read a book by Laura Hillenbrand, best-selling author of Seabiscuit. Her skillful writing pulls you in and doesn’t let you go. I highly recommend Unbroken to adults who are fascinated by history, by incredible yet true stories of bravery, and by uncommon people who’ve wrestled with the deepest issues of life and have emerged as victors.

Posted on July 7, 2015

2 thoughts on “Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

  1. I have just started this book after having it in my reading queue for a year or so. I look forward to reading it first and then the movie! Thanks for the review.

    1. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it and what impressed you the most, Teresa. Thanks for commenting.

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