At the recommendation of my aunt and a cousin, I recently read Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. They both told me what a great book it is and how much I’d enjoy it. They were right. It’s in the top five books I’ve read in 2012. The story covers two topics I love to read: Olympics and World War II.
The main character is Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American growing up in Southern California who realizes he can run faster and better than anyone else. This talent earns him a spot on the 1936 U.S. Track and Field team for the Berlin Olympics. There he does very well, and returns home planning to train for a spot on the 1940 Olympic team as well.
Then war comes and Louie, like many other young men around the world is shipped off to fight. Louie is in the Army Air Corps one of six men about a B-29 in the Pacific. On one of their missions, their plane is shot down. Louie and two other crew members survive about three weeks in the rafts with nearly nothing to eat or drink. They are spotted and captured by the Japanese, and sent to a few prisoner of war camps before the war finally ended.
Louie was tortured in brutal, unimaginable ways, which made reading this story difficult in places. The fact that he was able to survive all of his difficulties was just staggering to me as a reader.
Near the end of the story when Louie has returned home to California and married, he is converted to Christianity at a tent revival put on by a young Billy Graham in one of his first revivals. Interestingly, my Netflix movie this week just happened to be Billy: The Early Years of Billy Graham. I’m not sure the movie ever made it to the theaters or if it went straight to DVD. I knew of it because my husband’s aunt, a hairstylist, worked on the set and did the hair of some of the female extras. The movie was a lovely story of Billy growing up on a rural North Carolina farm, attending seminary, meeting his wife and starting a family, and getting his ministry off the ground. The movie ends at one of his early, great successes: his Los Angeles revival, the one attended by Louie.
I’ll be reading in this same theme again, as my book after next is Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics.