I know blogs are not generally used as book reviews but once again, I can’t resist. I just read possibly one of the greatest books I’ve ever read, it certainly captivated me more than any book I can remember, and that’s saying something because I’ve read a lot of really great books. It’s called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. It first chronicles the childhood of Louis Zamperini who is any parent’s worst nightmare. If he were a child today they would probably have him diagnosed ADD, ADHD and anything other acronym code for wild and unruly child. As a young adult he held the national record for the mile and went to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. He became well known for his athletic accomplishments and learned to appreciate attention given for good deeds instead of bad ones.
He enlisted into the Air Force in 1943. After the plane he was in crashed into the ocean killing all but three on board he spent 47 days drifting on two life rafts with two other men and very little provision. They battled the sun, sharks that surrounded the rafts constantly as well as dehydration and starvation. Then the real saga started when they drifted into Japanese territory and were captured as POWs. This story was not always easy to read, the abuse they suffered as POWs was unimaginable. The beatings, the degrigation and humiliation, the diseases they got from the lack of sanitation and lack of food and clean water, it was incredible any of them survived. Louis entered three different camps and each one was worse than the one before. They were enslaved by their captors who worked many to their deaths. Overall, 37% of POWs died in Japanese camps compared to 1% in the German and Italian camps.
Eventually they were freed and he reunited with his family and married. But the scars and nightmares of prison camp persisted and he turned to alcohol to numb the pain. For several years he a prisoner of his own hatred and shame. He couldn’t exorcise the demons of war. One day at a revival by Billy Graham he was able to give all it all to God in one of the most beautiful and inspirational accounts of God’s glory, mercy, love, forgiveness and redemption I have ever read. From that moment on his nightmares ceased. He was finally free. God literally took all that hatred from him and became a committed Christian. He founded a camp for boys with behavioral problems, worked for a church and did the circuit as an inspirational speaker. He returned to Japan to the prison that housed all the war criminals to express his forgiveness.
This is truly one of the most extraordinary accounts of a life well-lived that I have ever read. What I have touched on here is only the tip of the iceberg. The lessons it teaches are about faith, perseverance, hard work and so much more. It cannot help but inspire you and make you a better person. When the book is over you will long for more. I have discovered Louis Zamperini wrote his own autobiography Devil at my Heels which is already downloaded to my Ipad.