Tuesday, August 28, 2012

295 (2012 #40). Unbroken

by Laura Hillenbrand,
read by Edward Herrmann

This is the inspiring true story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic athlete and World War II hero. This amazing man, born in New York in January 1917 of Italian immigrant parents, died in 2014 at age 97.5.

Zamperini’s family moved to California when he was young, and he became a running sensation, thanks to a hip anomaly that gave him a longer stride. He made the 1936 Olympic team, where one of his roommates in Berlin was Jesse Owens. Unfortunately, he overate on the ship heading to the Games and gained 12 pounds, finishing eighth in the 5000 meter race – but catching the attention of Hitler for his final 56-second lap.

Zamperini joined the Army Air Force and attended bombardier school in November 1941, at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas (where my dad trained about ten years later for the Korean War). He was sent to the Pacific front where he flew a number of missions, including a rescue that went awry. His search plane crashed, and only three of the eleven crew members survived. He and the pilot ultimately spent 47 days on a raft, outlasting sharks, thirst, hunger, and a strafing by the Japanese. Unfortunately, they were prisoners of war of the Japanese for over two years, enduring much worse.

The book is subtitled “A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” and that’s exactly what it is. Zamperini’s post-war life is almost as interesting as his adventures, and he has much to teach us, especially about forgiveness.

Author Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote the bestseller Seabiscuit, has done extensive research for this book, yet written the nonfiction in a way that flows and compels. This amazing story pulls the reader in and makes one grateful for the sacrifices of our military. Well-known actor Edward Hermann is outstanding as the narrator for the audiobook version. The print version has maps, photographs of Louis and others in his story, extensive end notes, and an index. Recommended without reservations.

© Amanda Pape - 2012

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library and my university library respectively.]

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