on February 13, 2012
I had read Unbroken first, then received Devil At My Heals as a gift on my IPAD. I decided to go ahead and read this version and was struck by how the first half of both books were basically identical, though more "first person experiences" with Devil than Unbroken. What became more striking with Devil is that the experience in war as a prisoner was really just prologue for his ultimate life's work which was his service to God. You do not get that sense with the Unbroken version. He never claimed to be a hero, claiming rather to be a survivor who got a lot of press. His tale of survival was amazing and his commitment to God after his post war trauma is equally admirable as his ability to survive the war. I would recommend the Devil version over the Unbroken version because it seemed more of a personal story as opposed to just a survival story.
All of these television personalities who fancy themselves "survivors" for having undergone challenges of one kind or another on the various survival programs now popular might have a different perspective on survival if they read this book. Lou Zamperini is the "ultimate survivor."
To Zamperini, surviving meant starving and thirsting while confined to a life raft for 47 days. That ordeal included fighting off sharks while enemy planes shot at him. Surviving meant living with the tryanny, torture, and torment of his captors, including the threat of decapitation. It meant living through two cold winters as a prisoner of war, his body weight dropping to as low as 66 pound.
Zamperini was forced to survive in the rigid domain of despair, beyond the reach of help, or rest, or pity. Survival meantmeant living from day to day with the heart tearing itself between hope and fear, merely subsisting under a cloud of doom with no end in sight.
Yet, Zamperini was able to call upon the inner strength that had been nurtured in his days as an Olympic runner, and to endure.
Some of Zamperini's greatest challenges came after the war was over, the biggest one being overcoming the anger and hate he felt for this Japanese captors.
With God's help, "Lucky Louie" succeeded in every one of his challenges. It's a fascinating story, a story of real survival.
on December 7, 2003
I hope that Louis Zamperini's story becomes required reading for our children one day. This man's amazing story of survival against all odds during WWII is truly miraculous. To describe Louie as merely "lucky" misses the mark somehow. He should have died many times over before and during the war, but through God's grace and Zamperini's formidable willpower he survived to tell his story. And what an incredible, page-turning saga it is! I couldn't put this book down and after reading it, I was a changed woman. I had a new respect for my grandfather, and the men of his generation who suffered unimaginable horrors on the battlefields of Europe and Japan during the 1940's.
on June 3, 2011
I had read Laura Hillenbrand's best seller, "Unbroken" just prior to reading this book. So I already knew much of Louis Zamperini's story and was quite familiar with the subject of this book. Nevertheless, since Zamperini is such a remarkable man and his story so compelling, I was still anxious to see how he, himself, would recount it. As I read his book, however, I couldn't help but contrast it with Hillenbrand's work and this review is the result.
In an earlier review, I gave "Unbroken" five stars. I did so even though I had a few misgivings. For one, I felt that the book wandered off the subject every now and then, presumably to broaden its scope. I also felt that it suffered from what I would call "over-kill," especially in describing the forty-seven days on the raft, the sharks, and the later brutality of the Japanese prison guards. After reading about Louie's time of the raft, for example, for what seemed to be an interminable number of pages, I almost felt that I had been reading on the raft myself for forty-seven days. And the later brutality was described so repetitiously and to such an extent that I came to believe that no one suffering such abuse, not even Louis Zamperini, could possibly have survived. The author had apparently compressed over two years of abuse into her book with no attempt to edit anything out. I also grew a little weary of constantly reading that Louis did this and Louis did that, and began to wonder if anyone else ever had an idea or did anything. Much better in the first person. And, finally, I was somewhat disappointed in the books ending. It somehow left something to be said, but there was no way of knowing what it might be.
I found Zamperini's book, "Devil At My Heals," to be more intimate, more focused, and what I would term "tighter." It also filled in some blanks left open in the opposing book, gave the reader a much better insight into what Zamperini was thinking and feeling, and in the end carried through to what I consider to be a much more satisfying conclusion.
Bottom line: These are two great books, and I would recommend them to anyone. If you have already read "Unbroken," I would suggest you also read this one. But, If you choose to read only one book, and if you're primarily interested in Louis Zamperini, I'd recommend this one. "Unbroken" is much broader is cope, but you won't learn a lot more about Louis by reading it. Your call.
on October 21, 2003
In this exciting and epic book, author Louis Zamperini describes his life from a child through adulthood and the growth he experienced as a person during that time. Louis was a typical young child; full of mischief and adventure, and he always seemed to be getting into trouble for one thing or another, but thanks to his older brother Pete's love and encouragement, Louis' life began to change for the better.
Pete was an outstanding track and field athlete and he encouraged Louis to do the same. Soon, Louis was a world-class middle distance runner and held the national collegiate record for the mile run. He qualified for the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin and placed eighth in his race. Even though he didn't win a medal, he still accomplished what the large majority of people never will.
A few years later, Louis joined the army as a navigator on a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. Based in Hawaii, his crew participated in the bombing of Japanese-held territory as well as search and rescue missions. It was on one of these rescue missions that Louis' own plane became disabled and forced to crash. What happened next can only be described as a miracle, as Louis and another crewmember survived for forty seven days on a rubber raft, while eating small fish and even seabirds while collecting rainwater to drink.
After drifting for two thousand miles, Louis was finally picked up by the Japanese, where he was imprisoned on the Japanese-held island of Kwajalein. During his time in prison on Kwajalein and later in Japan itself, Louis was subjected to numerous beatings and very little food. One particular guard called "The Bird" was especially cruel.
The war finally ended in September, 1945, and slowly, Louis managed to return to civillian life. However, he had accumulated a great amount of hatred, and he suppressed his feeling with alcohol and carousing. Finally, Louis met a woman named Cynthia and fell in love. However, their relationship was anything but easy. Louis' drinking and harsh worlds nearly drove Cynthia and their newborn daughter away, but she decided to stay.
Cynthia met a neighbor who was a Christian and started attending meetings, but Louis was reluctant to go. After some nudging from his wife, Louis finally attended and a transformation began; Louis began to have feelings he never had before; feelings of forgiveness. Louis accepted Christ into his life and began working as a Christian missionary. He even travelled to Japan, met his former captors face to face, and forgave them for what they did to him.
This is a truly uplifting and inspiring book. Louis' life has been truly remarkable in every sense of the word. I was drawn in to his story and found myself cheering for him when he became a Christian. Read this great book and experience the growth of an unruly young man into a messenger for God.
on February 10, 2012
I read Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken before I read this book. From reading Unbroken, I know that everything he says in this book is true and documented. It is an amazing story. I liked this book better than Unbroken, but would never just read one without the other. This is a story about his life so how can anyone be offended by the fact that he is religious--that is his life. Also, I think you need to be an overly optimistic person in order to have survived all that he did. He is a survivor, and survivors tend to be opportunists and self promoters, but what is wrong with that. I would bet that if he were growing up today he would be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and would not have been able to have accomplished all that he did because he would have been stifled by treatment and a system that wants everyone to be the same.
on February 19, 2011
Great story. I read it in conjuction with the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.
I recommend the combination. Unbroken is colorful and a bit over dramatic but draws the reader in while Devil at My Heels is a dry simple version of the same story.
I enjoyed both.
on October 15, 2004
"Devil at My Heels" is an interesting read. It's fast paced and a can't-put-it down kind of book for the first half of the book, then somehow seems to start slowing down. Mr. Zamperini is a strong man in many ways and perhaps because of this, he has a propensity to down-play his emotions. His compassion and humor comes through strongly but I sense that the agony of his suffering (i.e. the beatings that were administered to him in the prison camps and the post-war PTSD that he went through) was much deeper and more horrific than he conveyed in his book. Despite this, I found his life story truly remarkable. What is most inspirational is his ability to forgive. I highly recommend this book, especially to victims of trauma/PTSD who may be struggling with the ghosts of their past.
on August 15, 2011
A month ago I read "Unbroken" which was one of the BEST, and I mean BEST books I have ever read. In doing some research on Louis Zamperini I discovered he had written this book prior to "Unbroken"'s publishing. "Devil At My Heels" is basically the same story but with some additional information. Both books are a must read.
on June 24, 2011
4 stars, one less than I'd given Unbroken, which tells the same story but in a different way. Devils is a first-person account by war hero Louie Zamperini, co-authored with a freelancer, and while it's riveting and well-told it loses some impact for a few reasons. For one, many of the paragraphs are stand-alone observations and the prose is not written seamlessly, taking the reader chronologically through events but fast-forward or flash back disrupting the flow. Secondly, the raft story and POW camp experiences are much more interesting than the bookended parts about Louie's raw youthful indiscretions, which are not all that compelling or unlike many wayward boys growing up, and the ending of the book, which descends into one big sermon. After Zamp's conversion, which I did not find altogether convincing, he's suddenly a new man, he says. No more nightmares, drinking, smoking, bad behavior. Since finding Jesus, he's on the gravy train, summoned here and there to speak for big fees, all expenses paid; another words, he's back in the fame game, exploiting religion for profit, which I found disconcerting despite his protestations of earnestness and sincerely and claims of humility.
By contrast, Laura's book, Unbroken, is told third-person and is a bit more objective, written better in a fast-paced journalistic way that seems more objective than Louie's personal account. In a way, Louie's book complements Laura's by telling essentially the same story, except for some minor events, but one from within and one from without. Where Laura failed to capture to "real Louie" and instead is superb at capturing more detail, Louie fills the gap by providing introspection and how he felt rather than merely telling what happened.
Therefore, I recommend reading both books. Both are page-turners and filled with astonishing twists and turns that make for good reading underpinned always with great emotion. Zamp says he really wasn't a hero, but he just survived. But if all the events in the books are true as told then I'd have to disagree because many of the things he did, especially while on the raft and in prison, were heroic and likely saved lives. Lucky Louie indeed was lucky and in the end he gives to much credit to the man upstairs and not enough to himself. As for the thousands of poor souls who were lost or those who never recovered, we will never know their stories and why God somehow failed to help them survive, too.