Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Reason I'm Still Reading "Unbroken"

A few months ago, my friend recommended I read "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. She said it would start slow and eventually pick up, and I wouldn't be able to put it down.

Well, I'm halfway through and can't seem to pick it up. It's been a slow read for me, and with it has come the realization that I greatly prefer fiction. I'm sure Ty is sick of hearing my comments that there's no dialogue and it reads like a report ... a very well written report.

But I'm still reading it. And in my own weird way, appreciating it.

The book tells the story of Louie Zamperini, a 1930s track star who endured and survived in the midst of insurmountable odds during World War II. Universal has acquired the screen rights to "Unbroken," so it looks like there's a movie to be made soon. Here's how Hillenbrand describes first meeting Zamperini and learning of his story.
Eight years ago, an old man told me a story that took my breath away. His name was Louie Zamperini, and from the day I first spoke to him, his almost incomprehensibly dramatic life was my obsession.
It was a horse--the subject of my first book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend--who led me to Louie. As I researched the Depression-era racehorse, I kept coming across stories about Louie, a 1930s track star who endured an amazing odyssey in World War II. I knew only a little about him then, but I couldn’t shake him from my mind. After I finished Seabiscuit, I tracked Louie down, called him and asked about his life. For the next hour, he had me transfixed.
Growing up in California in the 1920s, Louie was a hellraiser, stealing everything edible that he could carry, staging elaborate pranks, getting in fistfights, and bedeviling the local police. But as a teenager, he emerged as one of the greatest runners America had ever seen, competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he put on a sensational performance, crossed paths with Hitler, and stole a German flag right off the Reich Chancellery. He was preparing for the 1940 Olympics, and closing in on the fabled four-minute mile, when World War II began. Louie joined the Army Air Corps, becoming a bombardier. Stationed on Oahu, he survived harrowing combat, including an epic air battle that ended when his plane crash-landed, some six hundred holes in its fuselage and half the crew seriously wounded.

On a May afternoon in 1943, Louie took off on a search mission for a lost plane. Somewhere over the Pacific, the engines on his bomber failed. The plane plummeted into the sea, leaving Louie and two other men stranded on a tiny raft. Drifting for weeks and thousands of miles, they endured starvation and desperate thirst, sharks that leapt aboard the raft, trying to drag them off, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon with waves some forty feet high. At last, they spotted an island. As they rowed toward it, unbeknownst to them, a Japanese military boat was lurking nearby. Louie’s journey had only just begun.

That first conversation with Louie was a pivot point in my life. Fascinated by his experiences, and the mystery of how a man could overcome so much, I began a seven-year journey through his story. I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as far-flung as Oslo and Canberra. Along the way, there were staggering surprises, and Louie’s unlikely, inspiring story came alive for me. It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence, ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken.

The culmination of my journey is my new book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I hope you are as spellbound by Louie’s life as I am.
There's a reason I haven't put this book down. There's so much power in the truth. Not simply to hear the statistics of war, but to hear an intimate story of what men endured.

I remember as a little girl, my grandmother would sometimes pull out the telegram that arrived at her house. No matter how much time had passed, tears always welled in her eyes as she described in perfect detail the day they found out my grandfather's brother Don had been killed in war. From what I can understand, it's a feeling that never goes away.

I think there's much to value in "Unbroken," even though I can't say it's my favorite book to have read. I'm gaining the understanding of what so many have lost and endured to afford me my freedom.


misti said...

These type of books are always tough reads for me (definitely a fiction girl), but I always appreciate them and hold on to what I read from them. Sounds like a good one! Hope the pages turn easier and faster for ya.

Stephanie Jordan said...

Yes, tough but valuable! I'm going to need some good chick lit after this!

Marcus said...

Looks like a GREAT book!

Stephanie Jordan said...

Marcus, you would love it. Right up your alley.

Marcus said...

I just wanted over emphisize my enthusiasm, you know, since y'all tease me about the things I think are "hilarious" ha!

Stephanie Jordan said...

We just know your opinion is always going to be something positive. For once, I would love to hear you say you DIDN'T like something!