Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Book Review Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionWhat an amazing book! First, I have NOT seen the movie; I don’t know if I want to. Second, the book was very well written. We actually listened to it via audiobook on a long drive and we became so engrossed in it that we almost got ourselves lost on the road! Yeah, it was that good. If we were reading this book (rather than listening), we would not have been able to put it down.

I found Unbroken at my local library on my overdrive account when I was searching for interesting books to read during our upcoming extended drive. I chose it based on the back cover, but I had no idea what it was about, and had no idea a movie had already be made based on the book. I’m not really sure what prompted me to want to read it, but I’m so glad I did. I now have a different perspective on the value of life, and it was an even better reminder of how good I have it. When you get comfortable in life, even if you don’t have a moment to spare (like us), you still forget how bad things could be.

The book tells the story of the life of Louis Zamperini, before, during, and after World War II. Mr. Zamperini was actually a US Olympic track athlete before joining the war effort. From the beginning, the book grabs your attention, and you just want to read more. I will admit that I’m not a fan of reading details about any of our past wars, but this book was not like that. This book was about people, humans, personalities, and it was based on real life experiences.

The character development of Mr. Zamperini is amazing. You immediately create an image in your mind of a defiant little boy who drives his parents, neighbors, teachers, and everyone else, crazy from his creative genius and his practical jokes. You later realize that it was this very creative genius and defiance that allows him to survive: a plane ride that was shot down, live on a pontoon raft in the middle of the ocean for weeks, which was shot at, attacked by sharks, left with no food or water or any hope of rescue. Then, worst of it all, when rescue does come, it comes in the form of several years in an unregistered POW camp, with highly abusive keepers that never intended to follow the Geneva convention (29) rules on the treatment of POW’s (Prisoners Of War). And all this time, his family didn’t know he was even alive, or they knew, but they had no proof.

The story includes other people that Zamperini knew, their fates if known, along with very descriptive actions of the cruelty inflicted on US World War II Vets; along with Veteran’s of others countries who suffered the same unfortunate fates. A very disturbing reality at some moments; grueling, painful, and mentally disturbing that humans are capable of such atrocities. A hard realization for me was that when you learn about WWII in school, you don’t learn these types of details.

Then, just when you think Mr. Zamperini’s luck can get no worse, it gets worse. The only thing that told me he survived the cruelties was that this book was written, so I knew he had to have survived. But if you did not have that foreknowledge, then you would for sure figure that there was no way he would survive all he went through.

And then, all of a sudden the war is over, except not for the POW’s. They still had a little bit more to go, and then they finally went home.

But the end of the war did not end the memories for many of these Veterans. The long term effects on a human mind from having experienced such atrocities, such pain, such a difficult life, that I do not know I myself could survive. While we have a better understanding of things like Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) today, we did not have this extensive knowledge back then, and little help was available to affected Veterans.

This was by far one of the best books I have read on the real people that were involved in the war, and I feel not only educated, but enlightened about how and why things happened.

This is a true eye opener of what war means, how it affects an individual, their family, and it puts a character and a face on those we never met, who never returned.

If you must reduce it to a two hour movie, then you must, but I can’t imagine any movie being as good as this book was. Read the book first, then watch the movie. Then maybe you can tell me if I should watch the movie or not. But I fear the movie will take away from the affect of the book. There were so many details that were so important.

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