Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Unbroken: A World War II Book of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

Barnes & Noble

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.

Wow. I just... And then... But...

How do you put into words something as horrifying as war? I can't. Thankfully, someone can. Hillenbrand did an amazing job of portraying what Louie Zamperini's life was like before, during, and after WWII.

I am a back-of-the-pack runner and will never know what it feels like to run a four-minute-and-change-mile, but I could feel the urgency and excitement in Hillenbrand's descriptions. My heart raced (no pun intended) with every PR and new record! The local races! Regionals! Nationals! The Olympics! Were I not a runner, I may not have found this part so enthralling.

I was equally enthralled with Zamperini's military training, missions, survival during a 2,000-mile journey on a raft with almost no provisions, and the eventual descent into a series of hellacious POW camps. I am a pacifist, so there were times I felt very uncomfortable with the fighting and had to remind myself that I was reading a book about war. Then I rolled my eyes at myself and continued on.

I have no idea how any Pacific POWs were able to survive at the hands of their abusers.

I'm really glad that the book addressed how hard it was for POWs to return to "normal" life. It's such a huge problem and I hope that any talk of PTSD can help current soldiers returning from deployment.

This is a fantastic book and really helped me to understand some of what happened in Japan during WWII.

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