Monday, July 23, 2012

Central Book Club: Unbroken

by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is a biography of Louis Zamperini, Olympic athlete and World War II POW. Hillenbrand begins the tale with Louis' childhood and his knack for getting into and out of trouble. She tells how his brother and running gave him a purpose and gives us fascinating details of his trip to the 1936 Berlin Olympics where Louis briefly spoke to the Fuhrur himself. She then moves on to the focus of this biography, Louis' experience during World War II. On a search and rescue mission Louis' plane malfunctions, killing all but three of the occupants. Louis then spends over 40 days drifting in the Pacific with his two crewmates, surviving on what fish and birds they could catch and depending on rain for food. Compounding the misery of slow dehydration and starvation, the sun blistered their skin and the sharks constantly ran their fins along the bottom of the raft. After losing one crew member, Louis and is crew mate Phil finally find land, only to be captured by a Japanese patrol while still in the water. What follows is a tale that is horrifying and heartbreaking as we learn what it really means to be a prisoner of war.

Not only is this a fascinating tale from Louis' life, Hillenbrand uses other POW accounts and documented WWII events to really immerse the reader into this dark period in our history. Recommended for those who enjoy reading WWII narratives, survival stories, and stories of the human spirit conquering trauma.

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