Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

A friend had suggested I’d love Unbroken and I did. Laura Hillenbrand is a gifted researcher and writer, and the story she tells is powerful. If I had not known it was a biography, I would have thought it was an incredible work of fiction. Hillenbrand herself describes how she came to write the book, “Eight years ago, an old man told me a story that took my breath away. His name was Louie Zamperini, and from the day I first spoke to him, his almost incomprehensibly dramatic life was my obsession.”

The twists and turns of Louie Zamperini’s life and the time at sea as well as the torture he endures is amazing. Having now read the book and listened to a few podcasts with Louie telling his own story. His life is one of survival, resilience and redemption.

SPOILER ALERT: I knew the ending before I read the story, and here it is: Zamperini has an incredible life — juvenile delinquent, petty thief, Olympic runner, World War II pilot, who survives in the ocean after his plane crashes, then a brutal imprisonment in Japan until the war’s end, and then a post-war life of post traumatic stress syndrome before people knew what PTSD was.

The book looks like it will be the story of a tragedy. You keep wondering how is he going to make it? Then tricked by his wife and desperate to save his marriage, he ends up at a Billy Graham crusade, walks out once, is ready to walk out a 2nd time, but God grabs him and his life is transformed.

Even knowing the ending ahead of time, the book’s appeal continued to grab me. I wondered how is this going to work out? This is a great book for a long flight or a quiet afternoon when you are ready to read.

Yet as much as I loved Unbroken  I wish the book had included more of his life after  he met Jesus. I am intrigued how he has lived since those days and amazed at how powerful he tells his own story yet today.

I give the book 5 out of 5 stars. I love Laura Hillenbrand’s own story as well as her commitment to research, her use of language, and  stories of redemption whether in Seabiscuit or in Unbroken. I am eager to read the next book she writes.

My thanks to Random House and Blogging for Books for a free copy to review, it is indeed an inspiring book to read.

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