Unbroken is excellent narrative non-fiction that covers the life and times of Louie Zamperini, an Italian-American who was an track athlete before and during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Unbroken is an powerful and unforgettable book. One does not need to be a military history buff to appreciate the scope of Unbroken; just as one doesn’t need to be a horse-lover to appreciate Seabiscuit. Such is Laura Hillenbrand’s talent in examining the stories and histories around what might appear at first glance to be a book of singular focus.
After the 1936 Olympics, Zamperini trained hard, in hopes for the 1940 Olympics and another chance at medaling. But then World War II happened and the Olympics were cancelled. Not only that, Zamperini was one of many Americans who joined the war effort, becoming an airman in the US Army Air Forces. Zamperini was sent to the Pacific to fly missions. Unbroken underscores how dangerous these missions were (planes were often subject to breakdown because of heavy use): Eventually, on one of these flight missions, Zamperini’s plane (a B-24) crashed in the ocean and he had to struggle for survival on a raft with two other men that were with him in the B-24. Capturing food and water were difficult challenges. After 46 days at sea, the raft finally drifted towards an island atoll. Alas, this atoll of the Marshall Islands was already occupied by the Japanese, and the men were immediately captured. Zamperini’s years as a Prisoner of War (POW) under Japanese troops is then described in harrowing detail. The POW experience under the Japanese was hard for Louie. It is no wonder that once the war was over Zamperini came back home suffering from what would now be called PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome). Unbroken covers Zamperini’s difficulties with alcohol and married life, and how Zamperini eventually manages to overcome them. After he hears Billy Graham speaking, he becomes a new person. The religious aspect is not really touched on in detail, and at that point, the narrative then moves to an epilogue — Louie Zamperini is still living to this day, having recently turned 94 on January 26th of this year http://bit.ly/hBaF3f