UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand

UNBROKEN

A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

KIRKUS REVIEW

The author of Seabiscuit (2001) returns with another dynamic, well-researched story of guts overcoming odds.

Hillenbrand examines the life of Louis Zamperini, an American airman who, after his bomber crashed in the Pacific during World War II, survived 47 days on a life raft only to be captured by Japanese soldiers and subjected to inhuman treatment for the next two years at a series of POW camps. That his life spiraled out of control when he returned home to the United States is understandable. However, he was able to turn it around after meeting Billy Graham, and he became a Christian speaker and traveled to Japan to forgive his tormentors. The author reconstructs Zamperini’s wild youth, when his hot temper, insubordination, and bold pranks seemed to foretell a future life of crime. His talents as a runner, however, changed all that, getting him to the 1936 Olympics and to the University of Southern California, where he was a star of the track team. When the story turns to World War II, Hillenbrand expands her narrative to include men who served with him in the Air Corps in the Pacific. Through letters and interviews, she brings to life not just the men who were with Zamperini on the life raft and in the Japanese camps, but the families they left behind. The suffering of the men is often difficult to read, for the details of starvation, thirst and shark attacks are followed by the specifics of the brutalities inflicted by the Japanese, particularly the sadistic Mutsuhiro Watanabe, who seemed dedicated to making Zamperini’s life unbearable. Hillenbrand follows Watanabe’s life after the Japanese surrender, providing the perfect foil to Zamperini’s. When Zamperini wrote to his former tormentor to forgive him and attempted to meet him in person, Watanabe rejected him. Throughout are photographs of World War II bombers, POW camps, Zamperini and his fellow GIs and their families and sweethearts, providing a glimpse into a bygone era. Zamperini is still thriving at age 93.

Alternately stomach-wrenching, anger-arousing and spirit-lifting—and always gripping.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6416-8
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2010




BOOKS FOR MEMORIAL DAY:

NonfictionTHE GOOD SOLDIERS by David Finkel
by David Finkel
NonfictionUNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand
by Laura Hillenbrand
NonfictionJARHEAD by Anthony Swofford
by Anthony Swofford
NonfictionWE ARE SOLDIERS STILL by Harold G. Moore
by Harold G. Moore
NonfictionIN THE COMPANY OF SOLDIERS by Rick Atkinson
by Rick Atkinson

OUR CRITICS' TAKES ON MORE BESTSELLERS

See full list >
Cover art for OBSESSION IN DEATH
VERDICT:
SKIP IT
Cover art for THE WHITES
VERDICT:
BORROW IT
Cover art for LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET
VERDICT:
BUY IT
Cover art for HOLY COW
VERDICT:
BUY IT

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieCAGE ON THE SEA by Kaoru Ohno
by Kaoru Ohno
IndieTO AMERICA WITH PROFOUND GRATITUDE by Reiko McKendry
by Reiko McKendry
IndieGENEVIÈVE by Lynmar Brock, Jr.
by Lynmar Brock, Jr.