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Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: Unbroken

Other than memoirs, I very rarely pick up a nonfiction title so I was leery of my book club's most recent pick.  Once I got about 50 pages in, however, I realized that this true story was as unbelievable as any work of fiction.  Laura Hillenbrand's biography of Louie Zamperini begins with a brief overview of his childhood in California where his penchant for mischief led to a love of running.  Zamperini didn't just love to run, he was good at it.  He set records every time he hit the track and became a veritable celebrity after a stunning performance at the Olympic games.  A glimpse into the life of a buoyant Olympic runner would have been interesting enough, but it was in WWII that Louie's life was virtually inconceivable.

When his plane crashes into the Pacific, Louie and two fellow crew-mates were stranded for a month and a half with no food or water.  They caught an albatross and ate its meat raw, they drank only when they were gifted with rain, and they survived enemy gunfire and ever-present sharks.  How is that even possible?  I don't think I would have made it 4 days and they made it 47.  I would have been shocked and impressed if the story ended there, but then we have about two and a half years of POW camps in Japan.  There, he was subjected to routine, brutal beatings and very meager food rations.  Through all this, Zamperini remained optimistic and stoic.  He could not be destroyed.  When he emerged from the war after most thought him dead, he went through a bout of PTSD that merely held him back for a few years before he became the inspirational man he always was and was always meant to be.

4 out of 5 stars

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