Reading Laura Hillenbrand’s second novel “Unbroken” is like crushing your heart to pieces. It is that sad. It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a famour runner during his heydays in the 1940s who enlisted to the US military and became a bombardier during World War II. While en-route across the Pacific Ocean to search and rescue a missing plane, their own plane crashed. The agony (prolong is an understatement) starts there. His, and two companions, experience in the middle of the vast ocean is just horrible and near-death that you cannot help but stop reading for a while. Some moments are just painful to bear, when you try to imagine it. Their experience with sharks are memorable; same with birds which they have to eat otherwise they will die from starvation. Water is scarce, and when it rains, they have to save as much as they can.
When they were discovered by a Japanese ship after more than 45days, they were led to an island in the Pacific to become slaves. Then Zamperini was transferred to mainland Japan as POW. There, his experience with “The Bird” is just gruesome and inhuman (beyond all forms). I can just imagine his experience while he was in Japan; good thing he survived all the physical torture and hardships after until the war ended.
What is more poignant is that Zamperini’s family in California is too hopeful that they don’t believe War Department’s declaration that he (Zamperini) is dead. Emotions run high when you reach that part where a recorded radio message from Louis Zamperini was heard by an American and relayed it to his family.
Our only window of how life was during World War II is through the storytelling of our grandmothers and grandfathers who were young during that time. Their experiences honorific, to say the least. Like Louis, and to quote in the book, “driven to the limits of endurance, he would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended in the fraying wire of his will.”
Read the book this Holy Week break and reflect on his magnificent life.