Thursday, March 5, 2015

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

A dozen members were able to share in the discussion of "Unbroken:An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive."  Most enthusiastically liked the book, a couple were more tepid and all agreed it was heavy reading. One member said "I loved it, I couldn't put it down." Another initially bought it as a gift for a family member and found herself hooked going out to get her own copy. As a runner herself, another said she was enthralled by the running aspects of the story. One person said she resisted reading “Unbroken” because she wondered what all the fuss was about, then read it and was riveted. One member said the book was ok, having read Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” also and thought both were too "wordy."

Reading Unbroken left many wondering how much abuse someone can take and survive, it left some members unable to sleep, and some having to put it down at times because of how dark it became. One person commented "I marveled at what it would take to render myself able to deliver the level of curelty born upon Louis Zamperini, and how much would I be able to take in his position." 
One member found Louis’ tale a gripping one, especially the whole experience adrift at sea in the Pacific. Her father was a gunner on a tanker in the Pacific during WWII. He returned shell shocked and ashamed. Her father-in-law was a Pacific scout during the war and never talked about his experiences. He and his wife had separate beds because he would sometimes vigorously thrash at night after returning home.  

All the research Laura Hillenbrand did was amazing along with the great index information. The beginning of the book layed out the foundation of his youth, which one member said shows that a juvenile troublemaker can work through his issues and even become a hero. Others shared that the Olympic training taught him to focus, to be persistent and probably gave Louis the thought that he couldn’t envision anything but winning. "He had the tenacity to push to win at all costs." 

One reader said it gave her an appreciation for the "Greatest Generation." We were surprised by how horrific the statistics of the war was. The plane Superman had 500 plus bullets in the Battle of Nobu. One member shared pictures that her father-in-law had taken of the planes while he was in the Pacific. The Minnesota History Center "Greatest Generation" exhibit has a WWII fighter plane with combat sounds and flashing lights so you can experience what they may have felt and heard. The discussion among the group marveled at how flight crews relied on each other and had to carry on with replacements when their crew suffered loss. 

Several in the group were astounded that we hadn’t heard of this tale sooner. Why? The consensus was that there were so many stories, everyone simply did what needed to be done and everyone sacrificed. As a result, war experiences weren’t discussed as anything exceptional. And society in general tended to keep quiet about war experiences. Several noted family members who experienced dramatic events in and around WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War and rarely, if ever, spoke of that time.

 A member said there are online videos conducted by University of Southern California with interviews of Louis Zamperini and another shared that the Billy Graham Foundation is going to make a film concentrating on the redemption aspects of the story. We found that part of the story fascinating, what an impression Billy Graham had on his life. We were glad to read this book and learn so much about the sacrifices made during the war, Louis story from his youth to his old age and his ability to succeed through all the horrific acts done to him.