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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 September 3, 2014
Spoiler Alert)
A compelling story that is hard to put down and then stays in your head long afterwards. Louie Zamperini had a difficult time growing up until his brother stepped in and took charge of his life. As a petty thief, Louie sure could run. His brother, using this natural talent, got him interested in running. Louie broke records in high school and college (USC) and finally qualified for the U.S. Olympic team to participate in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. He competed against world renown runners in his events, not winning, but surely, a tough competitor who was quickly recognized by the world - Adolph Hitler even shook his hand after the event.

The 1940 Olympics were canceled because of World War II and Louie's hopes of winning events that year vanished. He served in the Army as a bombardier on a B-24 bomber in the Pacific War Theater. Louie witnessed the death of crew mates and friends during air battles and miraculously makes it back to base - shocking others because the plane was in such bad shape and flying on fumes. Later, Louie and crew are ordered on a search mission, which is flown in a rickety back-up B-24, the plane falls apart after two hours into the flight and crashes into the Pacific, Only Louie and two others survive from a crew of nine. The survivors spend the next 47 terrifying days floating on the Pacific - guided by the current - circled by large sharks - unseen by those overhead who are searching for them.

They are eventually rescued from their floating prison by the Japanese and moved to prison camps; where they are forced into slavery, beaten, starved and tortured, The author points out that POW's on the Atlantic front suffered roughly 1% of the prisoners dying during captivity...in the Pacific theater, 37% died or were outright murdered during captivity. It was a time filled with terror and no hope...afterwards making it difficult for one to understand how anyone survived these horrendous conditions.

After the war, Louie and the vast majority of other POW's turned to booze to help fight the nightly demons which visited them daily in nightmares. His celebrity status pursues him during peace time, awards are bestowed, speaking engagements schedules - lines are long, citizens who want to hear of his exploits during the war. However, the booze eventually ruins everything for him, including his marriage. Suffice to say, his wife begs him to visit San Francisco to listen to Billy Graham one day, On the seccond visit, Louie finds God again and turns his life around.

I can't say enough good things about "Unbroken,,," It is truly a story of survival, Resilience, and Redemption - demonstrating that where there is a will - there is a way! Kudos to Ms. Hillenbrand for bringing this hero's story to life. I, too, can't wait for the movie at the end of this year. As for Mr. Zamperini - I call to attention and slowly execute a hand salute to you sir. May you rest in peace!

John Podlaski, author
Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel
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on January 22, 2017
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, follows the life of Louie Zamperini and his struggle to survive the war. Louie is a benevolent young man with multifarious skills who sticks to his roots, even in the face of the enemy Japanese: “The Bird tried to knock Louie down; Louie wouldn’t fall” (181). He never gives up and always tries to be hopeful that he will make it home. Phil, who is one of Louie good army friends who also accompanies him throughout most of the War, is a loving man, and he doesn’t ask for trouble: “[…] he was so quiet he could be in a room for hours before anyone noticed him” (51). The main conflict of Unbroken is clearly the war with the Japanese and Americans. The war is the external conflict that leads Louie and countless others to end up lost at sea. The deep animosity the Japanese feel towards the Americans almost pushes Louie to the point of death several times. They beat him, starve him, and force him to exercise when we is extremely malnourished. The internal conflict that troubles Louie, is his struggle to survive. He is kept inside a cell almost all day and when he is not, he is tormented and forced to dance for rice on Kwajalein Island. At Ofuna guards fart in his cell. All throughout his time being held by the Japanese, they try to take his humanity and self-worth. One important plot event would be when Louie and his team on the Green Hornet crashed into the ocean after the plane’s engines failed. Louie nearly drowned as the plane dragged him deeper and deeper to his death. When he emerged, he saw only two other men. Another plot event important to the story was when The Bird forced Louie to hold a heavy wooden beam over his head. The Bird ordered a guard to hit Louie with his gun if he lowered the beam. Louie kept that beam over his head for an entire half hour keeping one thing in mind: “He cannot break me” (213).
One of my favorite parts of the book was when Louie and his crew worked together perfectly while battling Japanese on Super Man. This part of the book shows us how strong these military men really are. For example when Pillsbury’s leg has been shot while fighting a Zero he ignored the wound and continued his job. This book is also very captivating. For example when Louie was at Kwajalein Island, each day I wondered whether or not he wound die by the demeaning Japanese and their cruel forms of torture. But my favorite part of Unbroken is when The Bird forced every enlisted man to punch Louie and several other men in the face. Every time, even when he was knocked down, he got back up, just to be punched again. Louie would not let them win and he has inspired everyone who has this book to never be broken. I would most definitely recommend this book for its action and inspiration that it delivers the reader.
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"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" is one of the most compelling and inspiring books I have been privileged to read. Laura Hillenbrand has written a nonfiction book that is so fascinating it is difficult to put down. The reader may not be able to believe Louis Zamperini was able to survive his ordeals and to forgive those who abused him and his fellow POW's. He is a rare man who used his wits and some unorthodox skills to live through extreme deprivation, wartime slavery, and physical and emotional abuse.

Laura Hillenbrand draws the reader into Zamperini's life from the beginning pages of this book. Zamperini was a track star at USC and on a path toward Olympic gold as well as to becoming the first individual to run a 4-minute mile. Drafted during the early years of World War II, Zamperini was a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and a member of a B-24 flight crew. His winning personality and his inherent optimism would serve this remarkable man well during his World War II combat experiences and his eventual imprisonment by the Japanese.

If your father or grandfather served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" may provide you with some understanding of their experiences. For those who may be too young to have known a veteran of World War II personally, this book may provide you with a better perspective on "The Greatest Generation". This is the story of an extraordinary man caught up in unimaginable circumstances - it is truly inspiring.
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on July 8, 2017
This book provided great detail of the amazing punishment the American POW's had endured at the hand of the Japanese soldiers. The remarkable ability of these American soldiers to forgive those who tormented them & in some cases killed their fellow prisoners was miraculous! The lives they lived post war are an amazing testament to the human spirit. It is only through the belief in God that their healing & restoration was possible. Great book, very well written!
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on March 19, 2014
I think for the most part, Americans have an "of course life is this way" attitude. We don't think too deeply about the huge gift that freedom truly is. We celebrate Veterans Day and support the troops and give a nominal nod to the soldiers who put their lives on the line for the protection of the life and lifestyles we so easily take for granted. Underneath all that, shouldering the load, are the soldiers and their families who give years of service, years of being apart, years of torture and imprisonment and for thousands of them; ultimately they give their lives. In that group of exceptional people, some shine even brighter, and thankfully their stories are told.

If I were to use one word to describe Unbroken, I'd say "inspirational". But it's layers and layers of so many other emotions - shock, outrage, hate, depression, joy, hope, despair, admiration, disbelief...and ultimately the deepest respect for every man and woman who enters our armed services not knowing what tomorrow might bring. One of the most unforgettable stories I've ever read.
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on July 20, 2014
This, the life story of Louie Zamperini, describes the strength of one man whose life experiences are not only unique and unusual, but also of tremendous strength and determination. His life of 97 years was long for the monstrous overstress he endured. A daring child, born January 26, 1917, Louie died July 2, 2014 of pneumonia. Zamperini's accomplishments include winner of high school and college track championships followed by Olympic achievements; decorated World War II second lieutenant, bombardier in a B-24 Liberator bomber; survivor of plane disaster and 47 days on a life raft existing on captured rain water and raw fish they happened to catch. He and his fellow survivor were captured immediately after they went ashore on the Marshal Islands. Both men survived two and one-half years in Japanese prison camps where they barely lived through intentional starvation and merciless beatings. Returning home after the war Zamperini suffered PTSD attempting to escape mental torture through alcoholism. His wife, Cynthia Applewhite Zamperini, virtually made him attend Billy Graham Crusade meetings in 1949 where Zamperini became a born again Christian. His mind, miraculously relieved of the torturous back flashes, continued to be rich in adventures and honors. This is a true story of an exciting life.
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on February 16, 2016
An amazing story and really an important piece of history from a very fascinating perspective. If you are a fan of human perseverance and survival stories or a fan of history or a fan of war stories or an athlete / sports fan, this story will have something incredibly enjoyable for you. In fact the story of how the story was pulled together is incredible as well. This is very well written and a delight to read. It is fast paced, fun filled, heartbreakingly dramatic piece filled with some harsh realities about our world in that time and dripping with courage and inspiration. This book is so good that I am afraid I might be disappointed by the movie. Read on!
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on June 16, 2015
YIPES! What a story! Hillenbrand is a very readable author and takes great care to include a multitude of vignettes, painting a portrait of Zamperini, showing that he was not only unbroken but also unforgettable. As the story transitions from Zamperini's exuberant and rebellious childhood into his service to our country, the story "droops" a bit as the minutiae of the analytical bits are explained (which actually help anchor the validity of the story). When those details are completed, tighten your seatbelt, the ride is on! Zamperini was a defining member of the Greatest Generation. If he were a child today, he would be labeled ADHD and given meds to "calm" and control him. What a loss it would've been--his perseverance and inherent resolve undoubtedly provided the basis for his survival.
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on February 8, 2015
I started reading this book out of curiosity because of the movie having recently opened. What I found was a giant of a book. Once I started, I just had to keep reading right onto the end.
Not only is the book a result of a depth of research way beyond anything I have ever read, but it is written with a level of feeling and understanding that is above and beyond that so any other living author. You feel as if you were were right there in the middle of the actually events, while, at the same time, riding high above seeing the whole world at the same time. It is written with so much sympathy that you want to know what happened to each person involved, and, in fact, the author fulfills those wishes on almost every person. The level of scholarship required to follow upon so many people is beyond belief.
If there is a Nobel Prize-winning book, both this one and Seabiscuit should both be in the running.
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