A book must be pretty engaging to keep me up at night. Normally, when I hit the pillow I’m out in minutes. Well, it’s half-past-two in the morning, I’m on vacation, and I fired up my computer because I am compelled to record some thoughts after finishing Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Random House, 2010), is a story that centers on the indefatigable Louie Zamperini, a youthful rogue turned Olympic runner turned WWII bombardier turned P.O.W. turned redeemer of youthful rogues. I write that Unbroken “centers” on Zamperini because, as the author alludes in her epilogue, Mr. Zamperini’s story is equally about the myriad GIs who braved incomprehensible conditions and treatment.
Zamperini’s story grabs our attention because he is the Olympic runner who, before war intervened, was about to break the four-minute-mile, but Hillenbrand’s recounting respectfully and engagingly draws us in to the lives of family, friends, colleagues, and enemies.
Unbroken is a truly wonder-full read.
Readers will laugh at the stories of Louie’s petulant childhood and at the heroic humor of he and his fellow POWs. The will marvel at the survival story. They will burn with anger at their ravenous treatment. They will read at rapt attention as Hillenbrand leads them to the threshold of the family reunion that only they believed they would ever have. Readers will cry when they see the picture of Louie embracing his mother. They may sigh the deep and soul-full sigh of brotherhood, as I did, when the author traces the post-war path that made for the book’s paradoxical title.
I hope this story is not made into a movie, at least not of the one-and-a-half hour variety. I did not see Seabiscuit, the movie based upon Hillenbrand’s previous book, but I can only imagine Unbroken’s vast and profound story being cheapened by a feature-length film. A sequence of films or a Band of Brothers type of docu-drama might reasonably render the story. It is a project that I would love to see documentary filmmaker Ken Burns tackle, not as a documentary, but as a movie-series. Now, that’s an interesting idea…
I suspect that I will reflect more on this book in the future. Perhaps I will post those reflections here. Certainly, Unbroken is very thought-provoking, one of the most worthwhile books I have purchased in some time.