Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Brilliant!  Mesmerizing! Fearless!

UNBROKEN is the true story of Louis Zamperini.  As a boy, Louie was a holy terror, always in trouble and running from authority.  His brother helped Louie channel his energy into running competitively, and through a combination of talent and pure stubbornness, Zamperini made it to the Berlin Olympics, on pace to surpass the four-minute mile.  Like many able-bodied men of that era, Louie enlisted in the army during WWII and became an airman.  With little more than tin cans to fly, our airmen died as often in training as they did in battle.  Louie's bomber crashed into the Pacific and disappeared - beginning one of the most extraordinary stories of perseverance, tenacity, and will to live. 

"To be an enlisted prisoner of war under the Japanese was to be a slave."  Unfortunately for Louie, to be an unlisted prisoner of war was far worse.

UNBROKEN reads like a novel - a fast-paced, action-packed, suspenseful thriller.  There were times I had to remind myself that I was not reading fiction.  The unimaginable horrors that Louis Zamperini endured during WWII haunted me, yet compelled me to turn the pages.  There is nothing delicate about this story, but Laura Hillenbrand pieces it all together in a way that no one else could.  I hate the term "readable" but considering the size and scope of Louie's story, UNBROKEN certainly is readable.

Pete and Louis Zamperini

It's incredible how the cast of characters come in and out of Louie's life, it feels so unbelievable, all the coincidences and chance-meetings.  The most amazing thing is the thorough representations of these men.  They were not just supporting characters in Louie's story, they had their own stories to tell:

"Commander John Fitzerald had been in Japanese custody since April 1943.  For two and a half years, he'd been forced to grovel before sadists and imbeciles as he tried to protect his men.  He'd been starved, beaten, enslaved, given the water cure, had his fingernails torn out."

Even when I wanted to cheer for Louie and his friends, my heart broke.  You will want to cheer for Louie; cry for him; fight for him; and save him. 

If you read one non-fiction book this year, read UNBROKEN.

Many thanks to my friend, Ann Marie, for recommending UNBROKEN.  It is lovingly placed on my Shelf of Fame next to my other favorites. 

Book Extras:
Random House Unbroken page
Read an Excerpt
Laura Hillenbrand Website, Facebook,

About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 496 pages 
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (November 16, 2010) 
  • Language: English 
  • ISBN-10: 1400064163 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400064168

  • About the Author:
    Laura Hillenbrand is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, won the Book Sense Nonfiction Book of the Year award.   She and actor Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children (, a charity that provides school supplies to children through American troops. She lives in Washington, D.C. 

    *Disclosure:  This book was purchased by me with no obligation to the publisher, book store, or author.


    Anne said...

    I have heard a lot of good things about this book. After reading your review I really want to try to read this one soon. It sounds like a great book.

    Zibilee said...

    I just finished this one last week on audio, and loved it. The beginning was a little slow for me, but the story was incredible! I am going to be writing my review on it today. Great review! I am glad you loved it too!

    bermudaonion said...

    This sounds like my kind of non-fiction! I hope to get to it soon.

    K13 said...

    This was one of my favorite books this year...absolutely amazing just as you said! It would be quite an honor to meet Mr. Zamperini in real life!!

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