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VINE VOICEon August 25, 2016
Laura Hillenbrand follows her spectacular biography of race horse Seabiscuit with the gripping tale of Louis Zamperini's life and tribulations as a downed airman in WWII. "Unbroken" is written in Hillenbrand's inimitable style, blending global events with personal anecdotes from the lives of Lt. Zamperini and his family and fellow airmen.

Prior to the war, Zamperini had overcome serious obstacles to become one of the best milers in track and field history, competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin with Jesse Owens and other famous American Olympians. As America entered WWII he became a bombardier flying B-24s in the Pacific Theater. When his plane ditched in a remote part of the Pacific, Louie and two colleagues survived the crash, and drifted thousands of miles for more than 47 days before being picked up by a Japanese ship. During those weeks they endured unthinkable hardships: one of their companions died aboard the life raft, they were repeatedly attacked by sharks, and strafed by Japanese planes.

After Louis and his pilot, Russell Allen Phillips were "rescued," an even more harrowing journey began, as both men were incarcerated in a series of brutal Japanese POW camps. The vivid descriptions of camp conditions and the inhuman brutality of many of the prison guards are gut wrenching. The depth of depravity that Louie and his fellow prisoners had to endure is unimaginable, and the fact that he survived to live a productive life is a testament to his incredibly resilient and unbreakable will and spirit.

The author does not shrink from telling about Louie's post-war troubles with alcohol, rage and PTSD. The account of Zamperini's reluctant encounter with evangelist Billy Graham,is touching and instructive, for it proved to be the event that allowed Louie to finally come to peace with his hatred of the worst of the Japanese guards, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, "The Bird," Louie was finally free of the haunting nightmares and his need to seek revenge.

As I was reading this book, one of my close friends saw the book in my hand and said: "This book changed my life!" The story of Louie Zamperini and his trials and tribulations is that inspiring.
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on January 6, 2015
First off, I must say that I am very encouraged to see the THOUSANDS of positive reviews of this book. The bravery, unbelievable sacrifices, devotion, patriotism, and tenacity of "The Greatest Generation" should never be forgotten. I am heartened to see that even in this day and age of Political Correctness, many share my feelings on the matter.

Please bear with me for a moment, while I provide a little personal background before launching into my review. I feel it is relevant.

I can very proudly say that my parents (I am 51) were members of that generation to whom we all owe an immeasurable amount of gratitude. At the time of World War II, My father was a very young Marine (one of my pet peeves is seeing "Marine" spelled with a lowercase "m") who joined the USMC shortly after the war broke out. As so many in the US military did, he fought the Japanese in the Pacific from one hell hole island to another. Thankfully, he made it home safely, and went on to lead a very distinguished career in the United States Marine Corps. Sadly, he died when I was only 17 (he was a much too young 59), and many is the time I have wished I could have talked to him about his war experiences, especially since I have grown to become an avid student of history for the past 25 years. Note; if there are any members or past members of the US military in your family or circle of friends, LISTEN TO THEM ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES! I was young and stupid, and my opportunity is lost.

Now for the book. POSSIBLE SPOILERS.....
This book is Odyssean in its vast tapestry of one epic struggle after another. The name of Louis Zamperini is one that, hopefully now, thanks to Laura Hillenbrand, will become a household name in the pantheon of great Americans. From the time of his youth, to the rigors of the Olympics, to the gripping fear of aerial combat, she traces his remarkable life through a seemingly never ending ordeal of survival while being lost at sea for a record 47 days, only to be captured by the Japanese to endure a withering, seemingly ceaseless nightmare of thirst, starvation, torture, sickness, humiliation, loss and loneliness, eventually becoming a fixed recipient of unbelievable brutality by a sick and twisted sadist who is relentless in his devotion to break Mr. Zamperini's spirit.

Frequently, when thinking about WWII vets, I have often wondered out loud to my wife; "how in the world did these guys, after seeing what they saw and experiencing what they experienced, get on with 'normal' life?" Indeed, one could argue that Louis Zamperini's greatest challenges came AFTER he experienced a multitude of challenges that would have utterly destroyed most people in body, mind and soul. Thankfully for Louis and his family (and his family is VERY much a part of the story), he eventually found a way. Regarding his family, this book should appeal to many people across a wide spectrum, as Laura Hillenbrand takes us into the thoughts and emotions of those who loved him most, and we share in their seemingly interminable hours of agony, spent in the uncertainty of any knowledge of the well being of one they held so dear.

The book is very well researched, and one can tell that Laura Hillenbrand certainly put a Herculean amount of effort into putting it together. My only negative critique would be that I occasionally found some of the sentence structure to be a bit choppy. However, that being said, she does a wonderful job of allowing us, as much as possible within a book, to see, hear, smell, feel, and taste the details of a story that stagger the imagination. It is emotionally riveting.

This book will inspire you, make you angry, make you cry, and make you immeasurably proud to be an American. Ultimately, it will reveal in a very raw, graphic, (this book is not for the squeamish), heartbreaking and heartwarming way, the indomitable spirit of mankind, and how one man, after living through seven kinds of hell, remained, UNBROKEN.

Please allow me to close by expressing a deeply heartfelt THANK YOU to all the brave and wonderful men and women, past, present, and future, who wear the uniform, be it Army, Navy, Air Force, United States Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or National Guard. We live free because you serve.
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on January 12, 2018
This is not a faith based book by a Christian author about God's divine protection of a deeply religious man. In fact, it's quite the opposite by all accounts. However, as a Christian reader, I can see God's fingerprints on every page - from Louie's turbulent childhood to a his brutal internment and especially his life changing encounter at a Billy Graham crusade. God had his hand on Louie and used his story in a powerful way to affect the lives of thousands.

Practically speaking, the book started to drag a bit in the middle. I was enthralled with Louie's running career and his early military exploits, but I labored to get through the detailed chronicle of his time at sea and in the POW camps. Hillenbrand picked up the pace again toward the end and she wrapped everything up very well. I haven't read the young adult version of this novel, but I wonder if that wouldn't be more to my liking at 322 pages instead of 529. This is a wonderful story that everyone should read, but I could have been given less details and still enjoyed the overall experience.
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on January 21, 2016
What a fantastic book! I read it in only a few sittings. It was so engaging I couldn't put it down. My father also flew in B-24 Liberators in WWII. My father, Hank Culver, flew with Jimmy Stewart, the movie actor-turned bomber pilot. They both flew some of the most dangerous missions of the war together in the same squadron - 703rd Bomb Squadron, 445th Bomb Group - with the U.S. 8th Air Force based at Tibenham, England. I used this book as a reference for the writing of my first book, Nine Yanks a and a Jerk, and my forthcoming books, Daylight Raiders and Son of a Gunner. See my website page www.sonofagunnerb24.com for more details. You did a wonderful job Lauren. Your book is a great tribute to Mr. Zamperini and the Greatest Generation!
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on January 3, 2016
Hillenbrand knows how to write, and the story she has chosen is a good one. There is plenty of detail, and she weaves in not only the main subject (Louis Zamperini) but also the various family members and others who were part of the fabric of his story.
One question bothered me: she mentions 5,000 Koreans having been massacred by the Japanese on Tinian because the capture of the island by the Americans was imminent. But according to various sources, there were only 2,700 Koreans on the island at the time. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinian).
Then there is this article from the New York Times, 1945: "ADVANCED HEADQUARTERS, Pacific Ocean Areas, Feb. 4--After only a few months' experience with United States rule contrasted with a lifetime under the Japanese, 2,400 Koreans living on Tinian Island in the Marianas, which was taken over by us last summer, have contributed $666.35 from their earnings to the furtherance of the American war effort and defeat of the Japanese."
So, at least 2,400 Koreans still living on Tinian, and no mention of a massacre (which surely would have been in the paper due to the fact that the war was still on and anti-Japanese feeling was running high), and far fewer than 5,000 Koreans living on the island in the first place. (I also have read a lot of Japanese history and Korean history, and spent several years working in Korea--and although I heard and saw plenty of anti-Japanese propaganda, I never heard of the alleged massacre. I researched it online after seeing it in the book, because I wondered how I could have missed something so noteworthy.)
Very thorough research papers on Japanese massacres (such as hawaii dot edu slash powerkills slash SOD dot CHAP3 dot HTM) fail to mention Tinian at all (although Saipan is mentioned).
My point is: if this alleged incident is reported this inaccurately--or perhaps entirely fictitious--are there other inaccuracies?
At any rate, the book kept me enthralled from start to finish, and it is truly inspirational. And I don't think that an error or two in something of this scope is critical.
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on December 22, 2014
Oh! This book!! So many feels!

The gun cracked, the men rushed forward, and the race was on. Lash bounded to the lead, with Bright in close pursuit. Louie dropped back, and the field settled in for the grind.

The beginning of the book was quite dramatic. I loved Louie from the start. He wasn’t perfect but sadly he was hurting people. Once he realized this he knew he had to stop and change his ways, but how!? His brother Pete and his family was a great influence. Family is always an influence whether we see it so plainly or not. In the case of Louie they were a good, a very good influence. I also loved his mother, although it was Pete that really pushed him to find the greatness within.

A photographer climved inside the plane and snapped a picture. Taken in daylight in the dark of the plane’s interior, the image showed shafts of light streaming through the holes, a shower of stars against a black sky.

With all of the drama at the beginning I was dreading reaching the point of his captivity but with such poignant writing I couldn’t help but race through the book. His military days were fantastic and I could feel myself living vicariously through his happy days. I wanted to meet the people he met, go on the trips he went on, and enjoy life as much as he did! At least until…

Nobody’s going to live through this.

22% into the book and it starts getting deep. Really deep. I started to feel myself being afraid for his life, wondering how he was going to survive. He kept many journals so there wasn’t a guarantee (unlike my hubby who knew about Louie Zamborini, I had not heard of him) that he was going to live. I wanted to avert my eyes, stop reading, anything to forgo re-living the traumatic events that led to his capture. And they are TRAUMATIC! But I could not help myself. The more dramatic the events the more I wanted to rush through the story and learn his fate.

On a side note… never, EVER ask yourself

After a plane crash, Louie replied, what more bad luck could they have?

More about the actual writing, although the story was tremendously heavy and amazing and nearly unbelievable, the writing was exceptional. I do not think I could have gotten through this much horror without such exquisite writing. It was lyrical in parts and very deep in others and even had a slight spirituality in certain areas.

The fight for this place had ripped the jungle off of the island.

In short: This is an epic battle with not only outside sources, there are many, but also with his own spirit. This will leave you stunned but it is major food for thought. This is definitely a must read and I cannot wait to see the upcoming movie!
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on February 26, 2016
This book. I can't say enough about it. I have read it. I've seen the movie. I am now listening to it on compact disc in my car. I've gifted it to a friend. I want to give it to others. There are not words to describe how it has impacted my thinking. The book is far more involved than the movie. I know this is usually the case. But the life and thought processes of Louis Zamperini are life altering for me.

Without spoiling it for those who have yet to read this work, all I can say is Thank You, to our marvelous military service men and women for your selfless courage. You have taught me so much from your bravery. And to Laura Hillenbrand, I thank you for making this book available to those of us who need to read it. It is a work of art.

I love listening to it in my car. I find myself driving slower and slower in order to make my trip last longer so as not to arrive at my destination and have to turn off the book.

This is one of those books that will leave you changed. It makes me think about almost every circumstance of my own life and how I choose to handle it. I know I will be listening to it and reading it again and again.

I can't recommend this book enough!
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on January 21, 2018
Born on January 26, 1917, was Louis Silvie Zamperini, son of Italian Immigrants, born in New york but raised in Torrance California. Louis “Louie” was a deliquent growing up, trying to fit in when Louie and his family were the only Italians, didn’t mix well. “With flunking grades and no skills, Louie had no chance for a scholarship. It was unlikely he could land a job. The depression had come, and the unemployment rate was nearing 25 percent. Louie had no real ambitions. If asked what he wanted to be, his answer would’ve been ‘cowboy’.” This was however put to a stop by Louie’s older brother Pete Zamperini. Pete was loved by everyone, “Pete was handsome, popular, impeccably groomed, polite to elders and avuncular to juniors, silky smooth with girls, his parents consulted him on difficult decisions,” almost as if God had made complete opposites. Pete forced Louie to join the track team and later in life helped Louie become the Olympic runner he was known for. Conflict had followed Louie since a little boy, first a internal struggle of trying to fit in with the other children. Later during his life where he would later become one of the army air corps, where his plane would crash and strand him and his partners in a prisoner camp. The conflict then was not only between Louie it was about the whole entire world.
One of things I personally enjoyed in the book Unbroken by Laura Lillenbrand was the character development for Louie Zamperini. How he slowly transformed from a small trouble maker to a dedicated runner to a brave war veteran. Another thing that I found interesting was how descriptive Laura Lillenbrand was towards scenes in the book such as when Louie was losing himself in fantasies during the torturous times in the prison camp provoked by Matsuhiro Watanabe “the Bird”. Oftenly keeping your eyes set in the book in the most gruesome of scenes. The only real problem I found with this book was the fact that it was a little to long at parts and felt like nothing was really moving in the story. But that was about it, would I recommend this book to one of friends? Yes. I definitely would encourage others to read this novel.
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on July 27, 2015
tThe second in Laura Hillenbrand's tales of heroes from the Depression, Unbroken takes us from California to Berlin to Pacific War and back to California. Unbroken is the singular story of Louie Zamperini, POW, airman, Olympic track star, and Rose Parade Grand Marshall. Louie grew up in Torrence during the Depression which is where he learned the survival skills and petty thievery that would prove useful later. Despite poor health, lack of equipment, and a weak academic record, he made the 1936 US Olympic team alongside Jesse Owens and Glenn Cunningham. After this chance to experience the Nazis in Berlin, Louie became a bombardier on B-24's in Asia.

I knew about Louie from his track records but the really amazing part is his survival with one other flyer in a raft. They travelled 2000 miles and outwitted sharks, Japanese fighters, lack of food, and the elements. Ultimately they were picked up by the Japanese and Louie spend more than 2 years in POW camps. He is the chief target of a very sadistic guard called the Bird. Miraculously both Louie and the Bird survive to nearly meet again in Japan in 1998 but the Bird cancels out and it never happens.

After the war experience, Louie marries, starts a family but is wracked by survivor's remorse and the continuing presence of his guards. Like many others his life is turned around by listening to the preaching of a young Billy Graham. Louie becomes a coach, mentor, motivational speaker and camp counselor who was with us until 2014.

Sometimes when I read Hillenbrand books I think that she is the real story. Laura has shown incredible determination in following these classic Depression stories despite her own infirmities.
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VINE VOICEon November 12, 2014
A fantastic story by the woman who wrote Sea Biscuit. She is an author who spends a great deal of time researching and interviewing before she writes a book. I think she took 7 years on this one and it shows. The story of Louis Zamperini is amazing and inspiring and actually quite unique. I love that he is from a town in America like Torrance, California too. I love Torrance and there is an interesting story about a letter being sent all around the world before it actually gets to Torrance from Japan. The book leaves littlle out when following Louis Zamperini as he grows up, goes to the Olympics then is in the military in WWII. The book includes so much detail about family and friends and men he serves/flies with as well as details about military air craft during the war and even more. It seems like not stone is left unturned here. The struggles of being in war, being a POW and struggles even after the war are not left out here. I think it is so important to note that present day service members are not the first to have these types of issues like PTSD. I cant wait to see the film which was directed by Angelina Joli and opens on Christmas Day 2014.
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