A couple of days ago I read a blog by Tim Challies (www.challies.com) where he reviewed Unbroken and called it a ‘must read for 2010’. Since I’m trying to read 52 books this year, I was obviously intrigued (I greatly respect Challies). When I saw that the book was 496 pages, I gave it some pause because… well… I’m trying to get through 52 books. The fact that I’m writing this review just two days later is a testament to the fact that Unbroken is indeed a page-turning ‘must read for 2010’.
Unbroken is the biography of Louie Zamperini. Since the story is so captivating with much drama and interconnection between past and present events in Louie’s life, and since I want you to read this book, I will cover only a some of the broad storyline of his life.
Born to Italian immigrants in 1917, Louie grew up in Torrance, California. As a kid he was the ultimate troublemaker… He constantly stole from everybody, got in fights, starting smoking at age 5, and drinking by age 8. In high school, his older brother Pete helped him find his calling and passion as a runner. In 1936 he competed in the Berlin olympics, met Hitler, and stole a swastika flag. Louie set his sights on the 1940 olympics and being the first person to break the four minute mile. However, those Olympics were cancelled when Hitler began invading Europe.
In 1941, Louie joined the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier in a B24. One a search and rescue mission near Hawaii, Louie’s plan had mechanical failure and was forced to ditch in the middle of the pacific. Louie, and two others survived the crash and managed to get into a life raft. At sea for 47 days (a record at the time), Louie and others managed to survive on just bits of birds and fish scavenged from the ocean (one of the other men would die of starvation before the end of the 47 days). Beating off sharks and other dangers constantly, Louie and his companion were finally captured by the Japanese navy, some 2,000 miles away from the original crash sight. The situation was about to get far worse for the two POWs…
For those details, you’ll need to read the book (trust me, it’s worth it). Obviously as the title suggests, Louie eventually survives and is liberated.
If you’re interested in WWII history you should read this book. If you have family members, as I do, who fought in this war, you should read this book (both my grandfathers fought in the Pacific theather, one as a Marine who was shot and wounded on Iwo Jima, and the other as a Navy man in Okinawa. Jennifer’s grandfather was a B24 pilot there as well). If you want to know what our freedom cost so many, you should read this book. If you’re self-centered American with entitlement issues, you should read this book.
One note: Having read an epic biography of a man where God’s grace and sovereignty are evident, I was once again struck by the brevity of my own life, and my desire to not waste it.
One Minor Spoiler Alert: Several years after the war, God rescued Louie from the pit of hell through the proclamation of the gospel by a young itinerant preacher named Billy Graham. Louie would go on to serve at-risk kids as a Christian minister.