My brother in law was in town for Thanksgiving, and he had a copy of Unbroken with him. As soon as I saw the book cover, I wondered to myself why I had not yet read it. I had heard great things about the book. I knew that it was a story about WWII and was based in the Pacific. I knew that the author was praised for the book. That was where my knowledge of the book ended. At one point in time, it was on my must read list, but for whatever reason, I had never picked it up.
I asked my wife pick up the book for me at the library You see, we’re a homeschool family… she’s there ALL the time 🙂 I started reading it, and found it very difficult to put down.
Books about war, and especially the stories told in this book, are very difficult to read and hear, but this one seemed to keep me riveted to the pages. Unlike Adam and David, I did not know that Louis Zamperini was still alive. Of course, I assumed from the title that he survived, but didn’t know that he’d be riding skateboards in his 80s. I didn’t realize that he’d be a torch carrier in 5 Olympics. Heck, I didn’t even realize that this would be a story of unbelievable forgiveness where God showed up in the life of Louie.
The book talks about how Louis Zamperini went from being one of the most anticipated and quickest runner in the world to WWII Bombardier to plane crash survivor, to being in a raft in the Pacific for 47 days, to being tortured and enslaved on an island called “execution island”, to being sent to Japan where he was never listed as a prisoner of war and was beat and punished by a “sadistic monster”in the Japanese army, to being told that there was a death order for all prisoners if there was any chance that Japan would lose the war, to learning that he was betrayed by a friend who turned traiter against the USA, to being used as an object of propaganda on radio Japan, to being moved around toward the end of the war to be further hid from the US military, to finally finding out that Japan had surrendered and that he would be safe.
But the story doesn’t end there. He came home and the physical and mental scars turned him into an angry, vengeful, drunk. And here is where the story turns. I had NO IDEA that Billy Graham would show up in the story. It was at a young Billy Graham, crusade in Los Angeles, where God showed up and called him. Louie is no longer just trying to survive in a bathtub sized raft in the Pacific, Louie realizes that he is on a raft that has eternal implications.
It is an amazing story, but it still doesn’t end there. Louis stops having nightmares. All of the sudden, it seems that Louis realizes that the forgiveness that God has given him… he needs to give forgiveness to all the people who beat, kicked, spit, punished and humiliated him. He realized that by embracing God’s forgiveness, he needed to extend forgiveness.
The story continues that he went back to Japan and met with those who had enslaved him. Even though he wasn’t able to see the one man that caused him the most pain and anger… he still forgave him.
The story does seem rushed at the end. I found myself wanting to know the “rest of the story” that happened after this, but I guess that is what makes a great historical book. It creates in you a desire to find out more. This book makes me more interested in reaching out to those who experienced similar situations like Louie have.
I learned later, that during the writing of the book, Laura Hillenbrand never met Louie in person. It was only until after it was published that they met in person. She mentioned that this actually helped her in writing the book. She was able to visualize Louie as a nineteen year old learning how to run. As a 20 something who was dealing with the situations that he was in. She never visualized him as an 85+ year old man. I totally got that in reading the book. It seems so well written that you’d think Laura was able to travel to the places that Louie was.
Highly recommended reading. Even if you don’t pick up this book, do yourself a favor and watch some of the videos on YouTube about Louie. You’ll be thankful that you did.