Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is a 2010 non-fiction book written by Laura Hillenbrand. It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete-turned soldier. The book discusses themes such as resilience, patriotism, and camaraderie. Although the war sections are interesting, it is the story of Louie’s redemption and eventual forgiveness that drives the story home.
The story begins with a very young Louie getting into trouble in his hometown. This section of the book highlights Louie’s crafty and sneaky behavior as he steals everything in sight, such as cakes, candy, and anything else that’s edible. His family lives inside a one-room shack in Torrance, California, and Louie finds that stealing is the easiest means of getting the goods that he desires. Alongside his heists, Louie enjoys picking fights with the other children in his town, as well as running from the victims of his robberies.
As Louie entered high school, his brother, Pete, became increasingly worried about Louie’s well-being. Pete decided that Louie should try track running for a hobby. Louie was determined to be the best track runner in his school, and practiced several times a day. Soon, he had beaten the speed record at his school, and later was close to beating the world record. In an amazing turn of events, Louie made the US team in the 1936 Olympic Games, located in Berlin, Germany. Although he does not win a medal at the Olympic Games, he is expected to get the gold in the 1940 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Three years after the Olympics in Munich, World War II broke out in Europe. The 1940 Olympics were immediately cancelled due to Japan’s involvement in the war. At this time, Louie was drafted into the army and became the bombardier on a B-24 bomber in the Pacific Theatre of war.
After a series of adventures, Louie’s plane crashed, and he was stranded on an inflatable raft for an astounding 47 days, a record at the time. After completing this amazing feat, he was unfortunately captured by the Japanese, and sent to a POW camp. After enduring the abuse of one of Japan’s most notorious war criminals nicknamed The Bird, for almost three years, Louie is released at the end of the war. Although the story seems to come to an end, the real message is just being revealed.
Although the war is over, Louie is haunted by his memories. He turned to alcohol to solve his problems, and frequently had violent fits. He could not sleep, as dreams of his captors tormented his mind. Finally, Louie vowed to return to Japan and murder The Bird, who had nearly killed Louie several times by beating him so harshly. All of this ended when his wife forces him to go to a Billy Graham Revival near his house. After being forced to attend several times, Louie felt compelled to accept Christianity as his religion. After this night, Louie ended his alcoholism and decided to return to Japan and forgive his enemies. Years after his imprisonment, Louie returned to Japan to talk to the Japanese soldiers one more time. Nearly all of the prison guards apologized to Louie, and he even saw some of the guards that had been kind to him during his stay at multiple camps. Sadly, the Bird refused to speak with him and deny his war crimes. This did not discourage Louie however, as he felt that his duty is complete and that the war inside of him is finally over.
Overall, Unbroken is one of the best books I have ever read and easily earns its place among the best war books ever written. It has a great plot as well as a fulfilling ending that shows that good always triumphs over evil. I would highly recommend it to history fans, people interested in 20th century aviation, or anyone looking for an amazing story to envelop themselves in.