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Veterans Day 2014

Nonfiction Review – Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


Review By Mirah W. (mwelday)

Every year Americans remember the devotion and sacrifice of our military personnel on Veterans Day. Every day I am proud and honored to be a military spouse and, at the same time, it is incredibly humbling to be a part of a group of such strong and amazing men and women.  I recently read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and was, once again, reminded of the overwhelming pain and suffering some of our service members experience.

Unbroken is the story of Louis ‘Louie’ Zamperini. Louie was a prankster teenager with a penchant for petty theft and he was quickly spiraling out of control.  His brother Pete convinced Louie to direct his energy into running and Louie found his stride and focus.  Louie’s skill as a runner surpassed what he or Pete ever imagined. Louie set high school track records in California and made it to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

In 1941, Louie joined to the US Army Air Forces and became a bombardier on a B-24.  In 1943, during a search for a lost aircraft and crew, Louie’s B-24 crashed into the ocean and Louie was one of the three survivors.  Louie spent over 40 days in a raft lost at sea before reaching the Marshall Islands and being captured by the Japanese.  Louie then was forced to endure torture, humiliation, starvation, and other horrible acts of brutality in Japanese POW camps.

The entire book was so meticulously researched and delivered; it was both amazing and difficult to read.  While reading I kept thinking, ‘what else could he possibly have to endure?’ and then something else would happen; it was gut-wrenching to get through some portions of the book but, in the end, it left me feeling hopeful.  I simply cannot fathom the mentality of the individuals who were responsible for the atrocities Louie experienced.  In addition to Louie’s struggles, his family lived with the grief and doubt of whether he was alive or dead. During Louie’s service, his mother wore a set of aviator’s wings pinned to her clothing every day and at night she moved the pin to her nightgown.  The depth of her love and devotion was touching and memorable.

Unbroken is about resiliency, courage, heartbreak, and strength.  While I believe Louie’s experience is one-of-a kind (I simply cannot imagine others going through this same series of events), there are men and women of our armed forces who endure extreme hardships, injuries and tragedies every day and we hear little about it.  Unbroken serves as a very stark and saddening reminder of what some of our service members go through while protecting our freedoms.

Every year we lose more of our World War II veterans, who many Americans consider to be our greatest generation of military heroes.  I remember visiting Pearl Harbor, hearing World War II veterans sharing their stories with visitors and being riveted by the magnitude of all they lived through. Their stories need to be heard and remembered so we can understand our past and hopefully learn from those events. I believe Hillenbrand has created a masterful tribute to Louie Zamperini and all of our military personnel.  I give 5 stars to this incredibly moving, detailed account of the life of a great American hero.




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