Book Review: “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

When we were looking for a book to read for the new bookclub a few friends were forming, I suggested Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I had to look up the description of the book in order to suggest it, since I didn’t have any idea what the actual content of the book was.

I just remember Amy declaring that it was going to be the best book she’d read in 2012-despite having read it at the very beginning of the year. And I remember Carrie reading it and loving it. And Janet. It ended up on both of the Lisas’ (Lisa Writes and Lisa Notes) lists of best books read in 2011. Barbara said it was excellent. In other words, almost every blogger I know and respect absolutely loved this book.

Now I know why.

So that you’re not as clueless as I was when I suggested this book to my club friends, I’ll give you a bit of a summary before I start raving. Unbroken tells the true story of Louie Zamperini, a neighborhood rascal turned Olympic runner turned B-24 bomber turned castaway turned POW turned alcoholic turned… This man’s life is astounding. After every section, I kept expecting this to be the end of the story, but it kept going. When Louie almost breaks the 4 minute mile, I think that he’s reached the pinnacle of his life…but his story has only just begun. When he survives for what seems like forever on a raft in the Pacific Ocean without food, I think he’s reached the height of human endurance…but his trial has only just begun. When he survives the terrible existence of being an undocumented Japanese POW, I think that his troubles are finally over…but he will now find himself battling with his worst foe yet. The subtitle of this volume is absolutely right. This is “a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption.”

In no particular order, here are a few (not all) the reasons why this book is one of the best books I’ve ever read–and why it’ll be tough for us to beat it as a book club read:

  1. It’s an absolutely riveting story of an endlessly fascinating man
  2. The author does a wonderful job of weaving together historical details, human details, quotes from endless interviews, and memorabilia to make a compelling book that’s difficult to put down.
  3. It highlights the Pacific theater of World War II–a fascinating but often-glossed-over side of WWII
  4. It is rich with thematic elements–sibling relationships, teamwork, mind over matter, human dignity, the ethics of war. (Not that the author tries to propagandize. She doesn’t opine on the topics, it’s just that the story raises questions ripe for reflection or book club discussion.)
  5. God “accidentally” shows up. This is not a religious work and the author doesn’t even appear that curious about religion, much less be a fan of spiritual things, but she can’t help but report what happened. And the truth is that the story of Louie Zamperini’s life isn’t complete without the God who saved him from his worst enemy yet.

I’ve done a terrible job of summing up this book–and a similarly terrible job of expressing why I loved it so much.

But please, forgive the poor ramblings of a woman who can’t quite figure out how to put things into words–and pick up a copy of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. You will not be disappointed.


Rating:5 Stars
Category:History/Biography
Synopsis:The overwhelmingly powerful, fantastically told story of Louis Zamperini’s life as an Olympian, an airman, a castaway, a POW, an alcoholic, and a redeemed man.
Recommendation: As Carrie put it: “So why, exactly, are you still sitting here?” Buy it, borrow it, steal it*; but READ it.

*That’s an expression. Please don’t actually steal this book. Whoever you stole it from will never forgive you.

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Reader Comments (4):

  1. Barbara H. says:

    So glad you enjoyed it. It was indeed a fascinating book. I kept thinking “How much more can one man endure?” I love how you put it that the author “can’t help but report what happened” in regard to his faith.

  2. Amen and amen. I’m of the opinion that EVERYONE should read this book.

  3. Melinda says:

    Every review I have ever read about this has always been glowing. I have yet to read it even though I have a copy of it. I just checked my shelves though and apparently that one is in storage since I don’t have enough bookshelf space in our current apartment. I’ll have to read it when I find it.

  4. Lisa notes says:

    I’m so glad you liked it, too! Your # 5 was one of the biggest surprises of the book to me because I hadn’t heard it at all.

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