I just finished an extraordinary book, Unbroken, by the immensely talented Laura Hillenbrand. I’m not sure what is more remarkable–the improbable life of Louie Zamperini or the improbability of Hillenbrand writing this story. She suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating illness that leaves her confined to her bedroom most days.
Somehow she managed to bring the story of Louie Zamperini to the attention of modern readers through the wonderfully written Unbroken. Louie lived several lives. He was first a no-good rascal of the Great Depression, known for stealing, pulling pranks, and causing much trouble. Then he harnessed his energy into marathon running, becoming one of the fastest runners in American, setting many records and becoming quite the popular athlete. But soon war reached the United States and with it, swept up America’s finest.
Louie then puts himself fully into his career as a B-24 bombardier. He and his crew excelled at their missions. But after surviving a near-fatal tangle with the Japanese Zeroes, Louie was sent out on another mission, this time to rescue down pilots. But after embarking in an unsure and unfit plane, they met with disaster as the plane crashed. Only Louie and two of his mates survived. What follows next can only be described as remarkable endurance and survival. Louie and his friend (the third guy eventually passed away while at sea), drifted for 47 days and thousands of miles. They eventually hit land, only to be captured by the Japanese.
For the next 27 months, Louie Zamperini endured the unthinkable torture and threadbare existence that defined the life of a prisoner of war. Unbroken takes us through every excruciating detail with precision and tension. It’s amazing how much abuse the human body can withstand and still hang on to life. Louie Zamperini, more than anyone, reached the limits of human endurance.
But the battle wasn’t over for Louie. He came home, fell in love, and married. But the nightmare of his POW experiences haunted his dreams. He turned to alcohol, which alienated him from his wife and other family. His life was a downward spiral. That was until he was convinced to go to a crusade held by a young evangelist from North Carolina named Billy Graham. At the Los Angeles revival, one of Billy Graham’s first, Louie Zamperini became a follower of Christ. Immediately his life changed.
Now Loui has spent the last several decades sharing his story, pursuing forgiveness for his captors, and mentoring young lost men. His life as told in Unbroken is a powerful story, a reminder of the sovereignty and grace of God in the life of one man, lived during one of the most ominous periods of world history.
I heartily recommend this book. It will give you greater appreciation for the men of World War II who endured incredible hardships and made untold sacrifices to build this country. More importantly, it will renew your faith in the sovereignty of an Almighty God, who rules in the affairs of men.