Saturday, January 5, 2013

Unbroken: Book Review

By Laura Hilderbrand

Unbroken took me a long while to finally review. I would like to thank the publicist of Random House for a review copy.  But, also for donating a copy for our temple, Temple Emanu-El, silent auction.

 Louis Zamperini is from a close Italian family.  The family for health reasons moved from New York to California.  Since the age of 5, he has challenged family, and authorities.  He would be caught smoking cigarettes, drinking at age 8,  He was untamable, out of control.

But, he's brother Pete was the total opposite. He was trust worthy, with good manners. Where Pete did things but was never caught where Louis was always caught.

Louis, would steal food  from neighbor's windows, damaging property, police were at the Zamperini's door step every day, this was a frequent stop for the police.

He's parent's especially his mother would get other's to snich on her son. She would feed them and his friends would tell her what Louis planned to do.

Louise did not have any ambition, or cared about school.  He was bullied all the time from other kids in school.  
At age 14, his life turned around. He's brother talked to the principle to allow him to race on the track.  From there he's life changed, for the better. 

He was treated differently from the other kids, and the neighbors, and the teachers.  He was respected by he's fellow students.  He was rallied around from the entire town. Instead of hating him, they cheered him on at the track.  He then started racing for the pre-Olympic trials.  The entire town cheered him on at the train station. That is all the town talked about was the upcoming Olympics, and Louis.

Louis went to the Olympic games, and did meet Hitler. He shook his hand.
He did not win the games, but became the youngest competitor.  The next  time Louise was picked for the team.  But before the games were to start the war was raging on.  The games were called off.  t How heart breaking.  All that work and he prepared for the games. How would you feel after all that training, and then told the Olympic games were called off.

After some time he joined the air force. He was stationed at Hawaii.  Many times, he's fellow military friends were shot down, and killed in the Pacific.  There was talk that the Japs, slaughtered, mutilated and tortured fellow Americans.

Then on May 1943, his superiors asked him to volunteer for a mission on the Green Hornet with his friend Allen Phillip, and several others to go on a mission.  When you are told it is volunteer, you don't ask questions.


Unfortunately the Green Hornet was not equipped adequately without supplies, and provisions.   The B-24's should be equipped with a compass, radio, flashlight, knife, scissors, whistle, and radio transmitter.  The plane had none of these items. 

 The tarp should have a sun tarp, blue on one side yellow, on the other.  Blue, is to signal, yellow to wave in distress.The planes parts were borrowed all the time.  The mission was doomed from the start.  The plane went down most of the crew were killed.  The few who survived was Francis McNamara, and Allen Phillips, and Louis Zamperini.

You can't drink salt water because that makes you more dehydrated. The had to hunt for food from a spear.  The food was birds they caught or fish, but it was raw meat.  They did not have anything to cook with.  The sharks were surrounding their raft every day.  The raft kept loosing air.  They kept trying to blow air in the raft. Somehow the raft stayed afloat for that many over 40 days. 

Unfortunately, McNamara died. But before he died he became a hero for Louis and Allen.

They learned to survive because of survival techniques, and Louis being street smart. There was not much food on the raft, the elements of heat, and salt water. 

There was a difference of all three men.  Louise was a survivor, and was resourceful, and determination, and a rebel, and took challenges.  He never gave up.  Allen's background came from he's religious background, and he's faith in g-d. McNamara, unfortunately, gave up and was did not have a strong up bringing.

After the men were out to sea over 43 days, they were spotted. This is what they were afraid of the Japs. At first, they were treated very well.  Then, when Louis came on the worst of the worst, by the name of the " Bird".  He was the worst overseer.  He dehumanized them, they lost their dignity.  He was hot headed, and unpredictable. One minute he was kind, and wanted to be your friend the next, he would whip you, and beat you to a pulp.

It looked like the Bird was after only Louis.  Because he was a famous American, the Bird was after him, every chance he got.  The took revenge after American forces won a victorious battle.  They would kill POW's, whip them, mistreat, and do terrible things to them. 

I could not turn the page as I was reading it was too unimaginable.   The torture was terrible, and I could not imagine human beings doing such terrible things to others.  It was just too inhumane, and unthinkable to anyone that has a heart and soul.

The Japanese wanted to embarrass the U.S. Government. The Japanese would broadcast someone that was alive that the U.S. government reported that the prisoner was dead.  Another instance the POWS were starved. The Red Cross was sending food.  But the Japanese were stealing it, there were fruits and vegetables that they were suppose to be supplying but never received them.  There was a time, that it looked like the Japanese were going to give the food to the POWS. It was a propaganda ploy.   They gave them the food, then took a picture with them receiving the food.  But, then the food was snatched from them. Can you imagine, with them being so hungry.  I cried for them as I was reading.

By the end of WW2 there were 132,000 POWS from the US, Canada, Holland, Australia.  36,000 died, of the 34,648 Americans held by Japan.  12,935 more than 37% died.

When Louis came home he did not want he's family to see how emancipated he was. He stayed on at the VA hospital a bit longer.  Louis finally came home.  But, after he was home for some time.  The family saw that he was suffering from PTSD.  Louise had a hard time coping, and he would drink.  He met Cynthia, she was from a wealthy family. They married and had a child.  But, after a time she could not take it any longer. Louis says she saved him. She enticed him to go to a Billy Graham revival meeting. Once he went, he went home and took all the bottles of liquor and threw it down the drain.  He never looked back.

My Review: I usually summarize the book and give a review without spoilers.  But, this time I could not help myself. Since, I loved Unbroken so much.  I am still thinking about Louis, and WW2. I think most of us, forget about the fighting in the Pacific. I did not know about Louis story.  I did know about the atrocities the Japanese did to us.  The inhumane treatment from the Japanese.

I don't know what was worse, being stranded on a raft or being a captive of the Japanese.  Louis he went from one thing to another in his life.  I am glad he found his life, and was able to forgive.  He is a inspiration to us all.

I read Unbroken, at the end of 2012.  Because if I read it before the end of 2012, I would have picked Unbroken as the best book I have read all year.   I picked up Unbroken two or three times, and not enjoying it at all.  It could have been my mind set at the time.  

 This time I did enjoy it, it did take a bit to get immersed in the story about page 100. But after I past that, I totally liked reading. This is a hard story to read, but it is a important part of history.  I recommend Unbroken to most everyone .   If you liked Seabiscuit, the author's other novel, you will like reading, Unbroken.  The title fits very well with Louis.

Our book club will be discussing it next week.  I will be posting our discussion then.

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