Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption  -     By: Laura Hillenbrand
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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Delacorte Press / 2014 / Paperback

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In May 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific. Then, on the ocean surface, a young lieutenant's face appeared---and so began one of World War II's most extraordinary odysseys. You'll be riveted by the story of this courageous soldier---and his Christian testimony! From the award-winning author of Seabiscuit. Includes new photos. 500 pages, softcover from Random House.

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Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 500
Vendor: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 2014
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 X 1.25 (inches)
ISBN-13: 9780812974492
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE • Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
 
Appearing in paperback for the first time—with twenty arresting new photos and an extensive Q&A with the author—Unbroken is an unforgettable testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit, brought vividly to life by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand.

Hailed as the top nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine • Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and the Indies Choice Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year award
 
"Extraordinarily moving . . . a powerfully drawn survival epic."The Wall Street Journal
 
"[A] one-in-a-billion story . . . designed to wrench from self-respecting critics all the blurby adjectives we normally try to avoid: It is amazing, unforgettable, gripping, harrowing, chilling, and inspiring."—New York
 
"Staggering . . . mesmerizing . . . Hillenbrand’s writing is so ferociously cinematic, the events she describes so incredible, you don’t dare take your eyes off the page."People
 
"A meticulous, soaring and beautifully written account of an extraordinary life."—The Washington Post
 
"Ambitious and powerful . . . a startling narrative and an inspirational book."—The New York Times Book Review
 
"Magnificent . . . incredible . . . [Hillenbrand] has crafted another masterful blend of sports, history and overcoming terrific odds; this is biography taken to the nth degree, a chronicle of a remarkable life lived through extraordinary times."—The Dallas Morning News
 
"An astonishing testament to the superhuman power of tenacity."Entertainment Weekly
 
"A tale of triumph and redemption . . . astonishingly detailed."O: The Oprah Magazine
 
"[A] masterfully told true story . . . nothing less than a marvel."Washingtonian
 
"[Hillenbrand tells this] story with cool elegance but at a thrilling sprinter’s pace."—Time
 
"Hillenbrand [is] one of our best writers of narrative history. You don’t have to be a sports fan or a war-history buff to devour this book—you just have to love great storytelling."—Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Author Bio

Laura Hillenbrand is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, won the Book Sense Book of the Year Award and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, landed on more than fifteen best-of-the-year lists, and inspired the film Seabiscuit, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Hillenbrand’s New Yorker article, "A Sudden Illness," won the 2004 National Magazine Award, and she is a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award, the highest journalistic honor in Thoroughbred racing. She and actor Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children, a charity that provides school supplies to children through American troops. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Discussion Questions

A Conversation with Laura Hillenbrand

Random House Reader's Circle: Louie Zamperini is a larger-than-life figure. He enjoyed a measure of fame in his youth—both during his running career and after surviving the POW camps—but was relatively unknown in the second half of the twentieth century. How did you first learn about Louie? When did you realize there was a book in his story?

Laura Hillenbrand: My first book was about the Depression-era racehorse Seabiscuit. While working on it, I pored over 1930s newspapers. One day I was reading a 1938 clipping about the horse when I happened to turn the paper over and find a profile of a young running phenomenon named Louie Zamperini. I started reading. Louie had not yet gone to war, but his story was already so interesting that I jotted his name down in my Seabiscuit research notebook.

Later, I came across Louie’s name again, and this time I learned a little about his wartime odyssey. I was very intrigued, and when I finished writing Seabiscuit: An American Legend, I did some searching, found an address for Louie, and wrote him a letter. He wrote back, I called him, and I found myself in the most fascinating conversation of my life. He told me his story, and I was captivated.

So many elements of Louie’s saga were enthralling, but one in particular hooked me. He told of having experienced almost unimaginable abuse at the hands of his captors, yet spoke without self-pity or bitterness. In fact, he was cheerful, speaking with perfect equanimity. When he finished his story, I had one question: How can you tell of being victimized by such monstrous men, yet not express rage? His response was simple: Because I forgave them.

It was this, more than anything, that hooked me. How could this man forgive the unforgivable? In setting out to write Louie’s biography, I set out to find the answer.

RHRC: You’ve written about two exceptional, unlikely running sensations of the first half of the twentieth century, weaving deeply moving, inspirational narratives around them. What, to you, is a good subject—what do you look for?

LH: In times of extremity, ordinary individuals must reach into the depths of themselves, and there they find the true content of their character. Some find emptiness, frailty, even dark impulses. But others find wondrous virtues—courage, resourcefulness, self-sacrifice, daring, ingenuity, the will to soldier on when will is all they have left. These are the virtues that turn history, and these are the virtues that enable individuals to prevail in the supreme trials of their lives. It is in times of superlative hardship that individuals live their epic adventures, stories that thrill, fascinate, inspire, and illuminate. Theirs are the stories I’m drawn to.

I also think the best subjects offer the opportunity to use a small story to tell a much larger one. One could approach Seabiscuit as simply a rags-to-riches racehorse who lived seventy-five years ago. By itself, it’s a marvelous tale. But in his remarkable life, and in the lives of his automobile magnate owner, his frontiersman trainer, and his former prizefighting jockey, lies the far larger story of America in the Great Depression. I gathered as much detail as I could about the intimate lives of my subjects, but also backed up to show their context, the era of tremendous upheaval in which they were living, and the way in which they embodied the spirit and struggle of that era.

Louie, like Seabiscuit, is just one individual. But his odyssey carried him into the greatest cataclysm in history, giving me the chance to tell a tale vastly broader in scope than that of any single athlete or soldier, one encompassing Hitler’s Olympics, the Pacific war, and the experience of American military airmen, Japanese POW camp guards, prisoners of war, and veterans. You can’t truly understand an individual unless you understand the world he or she inhabits, and in illustrating that individual’s world, you will, hopefully, capture history in the accessible, tactile, authentic way in which the times were actually experienced. In Unbroken as in Seabiscuit, I tried to paint portraits not just of individuals, but of their times.

RHRC: After the publication of Unbroken, you received a number of letters from readers with family or friends—particularly fathers and grandfathers—who served in World War II. These readers frequently credited your book with giving them a new window into loved ones’ experience and suffering. Were you surprised? How did these letters change your perspective on Unbroken?

LH: Many, if not most, veterans and former POWs came home with overwhelming emotional wounds, and many never recovered. Among Pacific POWs, post-traumatic stress disorder was almost ubiquitous. A quarter of them became alcoholics, and some drank themselves to death. Many suffered from rage, anxiety, and depression; others isolated themselves. Some committed suicide. Louie, lost in alcoholism, rage, anxiety, nightmares, and flashbacks, was sadly typical.

For many men, the horrors they had experienced were too painful to articulate. Quite a few of the veterans I interviewed said they’d never before told their stories, even to those closest to them. Some wept as they shared memories that were, even after more than seventy years, still searingly painful. The wife of one former POW told me that memories of the war were such a torment to her husband that after he discussed it with anyone he needed three weeks to regain his emotional equilibrium.
The residual pain of the war took an enormous toll not only on the veterans, but on their loved ones. The manifestations of the veterans’ trauma was often destructive to their relationships, and because the veterans were so often unable to speak of what had happened to them, they were mysteries to those who needed them, and wanted to help and heal them. As Louie’s wife discovered, they were often unreachable.

Since Unbroken was released, I’ve been deluged with correspondence from family members of POWs, airmen, and other men who served in World War II. Many have spent their lives trying to understand the troubled minds of these men. Many suffered terribly from the damage the war did to their relationships—a husband who was distant and brooding, an uncle prone to violent outbursts, a father who drank, a grandfather who was irretrievably sad. But because many veterans were silent about the war, their loved ones never knew what they’d gone through. For these family members, Louie’s story was a revelation, a window into the pain their loved one carried out of that war. Over and over, their messages express compassion, newfound understanding, and, often, forgiveness. Reading these notes, which sometimes leave me in tears, is deeply gratifying.

________________

All of my life I wondered why my father loved alcohol more than he loved me. I loved him so much and tried so hard to save him but I could not. His disease killed him 36 years ago.

I have seen all the war movies and all the documentaries but until I read your book I had no idea what my father must have endured. For sixty years I have had a love/hate relationship with him. It is taking me a long time to write this because the waves of grief and loss are washing over me now and the tears won’t stop. Maybe now I can finally forgive him and myself for what I could never begin to understand.
—Rev. Cheryl Hubbard (daughter of Irvin "Bill" Hime, Army Air Forces staff sergeant)

I feel like I discovered things about my Dad and why he did things he did. You see, he was a paratrooper in WWII, in the Philippines. He never wanted to talk about it. I feel that through Mr. Zamperini, he finally opened up and I am in awe. To say thank you just doesn’t seem enough, but it’s all I can say.
—Monica Meehan Berg (daughter of James L. Meehan, Army PFC)

I am the namesake of my uncle. . . who was captured in the Philippines, made the ’Death March’, survived that and imprisonment there. . . . As with most of the Greatest Generation he would not speak of his captivity. . . . Your book conveyed an incredible, almost unbelievable experience; about half--way through I simply broke down in tears and began to really understand. I thank you so much for the legacy you have given to my family and the world.
—C. Ray Jones (nephew of Charlie R. Jones, Army sergeant)

Thank you to Louie and to Laura for bringing this story to light for those of us who have never heard it from our fathers. It shook me to my soul and will stay with me for a very long time.
—Lindi Clark (daughter of Richard Allen Marshall, Army sergeant)

Editorial Reviews

"Extraordinarily moving . . . a powerfully drawn survival epic."The Wall Street Journal
 
"[A] one-in-a-billion story . . . designed to wrench from self-respecting critics all the blurby adjectives we normally try to avoid: It is amazing, unforgettable, gripping, harrowing, chilling, and inspiring."—New York
 
"Staggering . . . mesmerizing . . . Hillenbrand’s writing is so ferociously cinematic, the events she describes so incredible, you don’t dare take your eyes off the page."People

"A meticulous, soaring and beautifully written account of an extraordinary life."—The Washington Post
 
"Ambitious and powerful . . . a startling narrative and an inspirational book."—The New York Times Book Review
 
"Marvelous . . . Unbroken is wonderful twice over, for the tale it tells and for the way it’s told. . . . It manages maximum velocity with no loss of subtlety."Newsweek
 
"Moving and, yes, inspirational . . . [Laura] Hillenbrand’s unforgettable book . . . deserve[s] pride of place alongside the best works of literature that chart the complications and the hard-won triumphs of so-called ordinary Americans and their extraordinary time."—Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
 
"Hillenbrand . . . tells [this] story with cool elegance but at a thrilling sprinter’s pace."Time
 
"Unbroken is too much book to hope for: a hellride of a story in the grip of the one writer who can handle it. . . . When it comes to courage, charisma, and impossible adventure, few will ever match ’the boy terror of Torrance,’ and few but the author of Seabiscuit could tell his tale with such humanity and dexterity. Hillenbrand has given us a new national treasure."—Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run
 
"Riveting . . . an exceptional portrait . . . So haunting and so beautifully written, those who fall under its spell will never again feel the same way about World War II and one of its previously unsung heroes."—The Columbus Dispatch
 
"Magnificent . . . incredible . . . [Hillenbrand] has crafted another masterful blend of sports, history and overcoming terrific odds; this is biography taken to the nth degree, a chronicle of a remarkable life lived through extraordinary times."—The Dallas Morning News
 
"No other author of narrative nonfiction chooses her subjects with greater discrimination or renders them with more discipline and commitment. If storytelling were an Olympic event, [Hillenbrand would] medal for sure."Salon

"A celebration of gargantuan fortitude . . . full of unforgettable characters, multi-hanky moments and wild turns . . . Hillenbrand is a muscular, dynamic storyteller."The New York Times

"[A] masterfully told true story . . . nothing less than a marvel."Washingtonian

"Zamperini’s story is certainly one of the most remarkable survival tales ever recorded. What happened after that is equally remarkable."—Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair

"Irresistible . . . Hillenbrand demonstrates a dazzling ability—one Seabiscuit only hinted at—to make the tale leap off the page."Elle

"A tale of triumph and redemption . . . astonishingly detailed."O: The Oprah Magazine

"An astonishing testament to the superhuman power of tenacity."Entertainment Weekly

"Intense . . . You better hold onto the reins."The Boston Globe

"Incredible . . . Zamperini’s life is one of courage, heroism, humility and unflagging endurance."St. Louis Post Dispatch

"Hillenbrand has once again brought to life the true story of a forgotten hero, and reminded us how lucky we are to have her, one of our best writers of narrative history. You don’t have to be a sports fan or a war-history buff to devour this book—you just have to love great storytelling."—Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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  1. Southern CA
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Stellar Book
    June 25, 2015
    mary jemison
    Southern CA
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This is one of the most gripping and touching stories I have ever read. The book is much better than the movie. How Mr. Zamperini suffered. Only the Lord working in his life could have taken all that pain, anger and even hatred towards his Japanese captors and turn it into true forgiveness and love for these poor pagans.

    Lauren Hillenrand is a fabulous writer.

    I highly recommend this book. What a testament to God's grace and faithfulness it is!
  2. Kasota, MN
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
    June 23, 2015
    Linda K
    Kasota, MN
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    My husband read it and loved it. I filled this out on his behalf. He is a man of few words, so sorry I can't had more. He served in the military in Germany and is very faith-filled. He enjoyed the book very much and thought it excellent.
  3. California
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Unbroken Through God's Grace and Love
    March 28, 2015
    gbautista72
    California
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 0
    Value: 0
    Meets Expectations: 0
    An excellent book. Should be used in U.S. history classes. Wow. Incredible. Unbelievable. Zamperini truly is unbroken. All that was endured during WWII, the pain, suffering, torture & through God's help persevered. He never once gave up though it was rough! Chapter 38 & 39 were the turning points where Louie realizes God was with him the whole time! Love it.
  4. maryville, tn
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Survivng Extreme Conditions
    February 18, 2015
    nonna
    maryville, tn
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    As a child, Louis (Louie) Zamperini could not sit still. He was destructive, rebellious, daring, and a thief. His father was always having to apologize, or make amends for something Louis had said or done or stolen. Louis was a very fast runner, maybe from all those times he ran away after stealing something.

    Because he was a fast runner, his brother Pete started to train him in track and field. Louie soon realized running was something he really enjoyed, and something he did well. In fact, he started training for the 1936 Olympics, which would be held in Berlin. Even though he was fast, he wasnt fast enough.

    In the late 1930s, Hitler was planning to conquer Europe, and Japan invaded China. Louie joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. In June 1943, the plane carrying Louie and other airmen crashed in the Pacific. He and two other crewmen managed to get the life raft afloat. After 27 days, a plane spotted them. It was not an American rescue plane. It was a Japanese bomber.

    Louie and the other prisoners of war were subjected to such brutal, sadist cruelty, its a wonder any of them survived. This is a story of surviving in the worst of conditions that would break most men. Its a story about Louie and the other prisoners of war who did not give up, and did not give in to those who did everything they could to destroy both the body and the spirit of these brave men in uniform.
  5. Australia
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Amazing
    February 12, 2015
    Missymoo3
    Australia
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Loved this book, read it in 2 days! It makes me sick that human beings are capable of such horrendous cruelty. But after suffering all that evil Louis still turned to God. It certainly puts your own problems into perspective. If I'm having a bad day I now think of Louis and know that if God helped him through all of that He will come through for me too. Such a powerful story, I highly recommend it.
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