My book club meets tonight to discuss Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.
As the sub-title says, this is A World War II story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.
This book tells the life story of Louis Zamperini, a former juvenile delinquent and Olympic runner who becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier. During World War II he and two other men survived a plane crash floating 2000 miles on a raft for 47 days only to be “rescued” by a Japanese fighter crew. He then endured several brutal and barren POW camps in Japan.
Louis’s survival is almost hard to believe – he had to withstand grave physical, psychological, and emotional abuse. The same traits that allowed him to be a college (University of Southern California) and Olympic level athlete helped him to persevere regardless of the situation. He was already trained to tolerate a high level of physical pain and knew how to keep going in the face of pain and adversity.
Except so many other men survived similar situations also. Over and over again, the men around him are noted for being resilient, brave, and good. They did what had to be done – and they did the right thing for each other. One in three men died in the Japanese POW camps – but this book focuses on the twos in three that made it.
On one hand I kept wondering how some men could be so truly evil and cruel. But on the other I was so reassured by the basic good of the heroes.
So many men to be in awe of. And women too. Women who waited for their loved ones to come home – even though they didn’t know where they were or if they were even alive. And then women who helped their husbands/boyfriends recover the aftershocks of their experience.
And my heart aches to think of the stories happening now – right now, right this minute – in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and more.
These survivors will need someone to help tell their stories too.
Not to mention Laura Hillenbrand has her own story of resilience and perseverance. She works and writes despite great physical challenges while suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. More inspiration.
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK