by Laura Hillenbrand
Reader Appeal: Adults
PopFam Rating: A+
If you've never heard of Louis Zamperini you probably don't follow the history of track and field. Anyone who does would know that Louis Zamperini was an Olympian who was the first person to come close to running a four minute mile. But all that was before he was drafted into WWII and became a Pacific POW.
Zamperini was a spit-fire of a boy. If he wasn't looking for trouble, he certainly found it in pranks he played on neighbors and items he would steal for fun. While his brother had a reputation of character, Louie's reputation was that of A character. And not a character anyone wanted their child to associate with. That is until he started running track in high school and realized the praise he received for his success was greater than the recognition he received for causing trouble, and it was something he loved.
Louie was so successful at running that he participated in the 1936 Olympics, which were held in Berlin, Germany, with Hitler looking on. No one knew at the time what Hitler had planned, or what he was already beginning to enforce on the Jewish population. Louie's experience there only fanned the flame of desire to participate in the 1940 Olympics which were scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan. Little did Zamperini know that he would go to Japan, but not as an Olympian.
Like most young men, Louis joined the armed forces when war broke out. He became a bombardier in the Army Air Corps in 1941, and ended up being stationed in Oahu a year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. While on a rescue mission from this base, Louie's plane went down in the Pacific Ocean, and he was picked up by the Japanese. It would take all the defiance and resilience within his being to endure the next two years of his life as a POW.
Unbroken is truly an amazing story. Laura Hillenbrand does a beautiful job of giving the reader the background of Louis' life, as well as the history of the war with Japan. There are innumerable accounts of WWII from European survivors (Jewish, non-Jewish, POW's), but the stories of those involved in the Pacific (Japanese) war are scarce in comparison. If, like me, your knowledge about the war with Japan begins with Pearl Harbor and ends with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Unbroken fills in the gap and gives an understanding of what Japan hoped to accomplish in this war. It's as ugly as Hitler's purposes, and just as heartbreaking.
But, as the title indicates, Unbroken is not a story left in despair, but points to the hope and healing gained through Christ. The story of what this man endured, and how Christ renewed his life, is beautiful. Due to the graphic detail of what Louis endured in the POW camps, this book is not recommended for young children, but older teens would gain much in the way of history and it would spark conversations about faith, prejudice, and the individual strength's God gives each person.
This is a must read book.
Let’s Talk About It
If your family members are interested in this book, then encourage discussion about it afterward. You can use these questions to get started:
• As a boy, Louis used his personality for trouble, but as a young man God used it to help him survive. How have you seen God use your quirky personality traits for good?
• How did Unbroken change your understanding of WWII?
• Wars still rage throughout the world for the cause of a superior race or people. How is the message of Jesus contrary to this line of thought?
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