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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

by

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Cover

 

Awards

Puddlys 2012 2012 Puddly Award for Nonfiction

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE • 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

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, 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.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Review:

"From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan's most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand's heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it's just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable: a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics, he's a wit, a prankster, and a reformed juvenile delinquent who put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps, In other words, Louie is a total charmer, a lover of life--whose will to live is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941. The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games. But war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen 'Phil' Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the 'theater of cruelty' that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a pathologically brutal sadist (called the Bird by camp inmates) who never killed his victims outright--his pleasure came from their slow, unending torment. After one beating, as Watanabe left Louie's cell, Louie saw on his face a 'soft languor.... It was an expression of sexual rapture.' And Louie, with his defiant and unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe's victim of choice. By war's end, Louie was near death. When Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945, a depleted Louie's only thought was 'I'm free! I'm free! I'm free!' But as Hillenbrand shows, Louie was not yet free. Even as, returning stateside, he impulsively married the beautiful Cynthia Applewhite and tried to build a life, Louie remained in the Bird's clutches, haunted in his dreams, drinking to forget, and obsessed with vengeance. In one of several sections where Hillenbrand steps back for a larger view, she writes movingly of the thousands of postwar Pacific PTSD sufferers. With no help for their as yet unrecognized illness, Hillenbrand says, 'there was no one right way to peace; each man had to find his own path....' The book's final section is the story of how, with Cynthia's help, Louie found his path. It is impossible to condense the rich, granular detail of Hillenbrand's narrative of the atrocities committed (one man was exhibited naked in a Tokyo zoo for the Japanese to 'gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body') against American POWs in Japan, and the courage of Louie and his fellow POWs, who made attempts on Watanabe's life, committed sabotage, and risked their own lives to save others. Hillenbrand's triumph is that in telling Louie's story (he's now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. (Nov.) -Reviewed by Sarah F. Gold" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Review:

"It is hugely refreshing when [a book] as fine as this one comes along. The research is meticulous, the writing elegant and concise, so that every page transports you back to the period....This is a remarkable tale well told." The Economist

Review:

“Extraordinarily moving...a powerfully drawn survival epic.” The Wall Street Journal

Review:

“[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

Review:

“A meticulous, soaring and beautifully written account of an extraordinary life.” The Washington Post

Review:

“Ambitious and powerful...a startling narrative and an inspirational book.” The New York Times Book Review

Synopsis:

In her long-awaited new book, Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a young lieutenant's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Video

About the Author

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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 134 comments:

IslandPoet, November 5, 2014 (view all comments by IslandPoet)
Although I don't usually get over-emotional while reading, I started to cry at four places in this book -- and yet I did not feel that Hillenbrand was trying to manipulate the reader. If you are not a believer in miracles, you will be after reading this survival story of Louie Zamperini and his horrific adventures during World War II. Plane crash, adrift on the Pacific, shark attacks, death of a mate, imprisonment by the cruel Japanese, starvation and madness -- it's all here, and told with an unblinking eye.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Taylor Wrenn, October 23, 2014 (view all comments by Taylor Wrenn)
Loved this book so much!! I haven't read a book this well written and engaging in a long time! I recommend it to just about everyone and have had to reorder it three times because I keep giving it away but need to have a copy in my library! Enjoy!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Sally Bixby, October 22, 2014 (view all comments by Sally Bixby)
Nearly unbelievable and yet, reading how he managed through his young life with dancing around petty thievery, and other undeniably worrisome behavior, I believe it gave him the foundation to fight for his life - over and over again. Even against everything when it seemed his life was lost. A must read to give each of us a keener perspective on our own challenges. Never ever call it quits in life.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 134 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400064168
Subtitle:
A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author:
Hillenbrand, Laura
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
General
Subject:
Military
Subject:
Military - World War II
Subject:
Military - United States
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Biography-Military
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20101131
Binding:
Hardcover
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
496
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1.13 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$28.00 In Stock
Product details 496 pages Random House - English 9781400064168 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan's most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand's heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it's just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable: a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics, he's a wit, a prankster, and a reformed juvenile delinquent who put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps, In other words, Louie is a total charmer, a lover of life--whose will to live is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941. The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games. But war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen 'Phil' Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the 'theater of cruelty' that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a pathologically brutal sadist (called the Bird by camp inmates) who never killed his victims outright--his pleasure came from their slow, unending torment. After one beating, as Watanabe left Louie's cell, Louie saw on his face a 'soft languor.... It was an expression of sexual rapture.' And Louie, with his defiant and unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe's victim of choice. By war's end, Louie was near death. When Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945, a depleted Louie's only thought was 'I'm free! I'm free! I'm free!' But as Hillenbrand shows, Louie was not yet free. Even as, returning stateside, he impulsively married the beautiful Cynthia Applewhite and tried to build a life, Louie remained in the Bird's clutches, haunted in his dreams, drinking to forget, and obsessed with vengeance. In one of several sections where Hillenbrand steps back for a larger view, she writes movingly of the thousands of postwar Pacific PTSD sufferers. With no help for their as yet unrecognized illness, Hillenbrand says, 'there was no one right way to peace; each man had to find his own path....' The book's final section is the story of how, with Cynthia's help, Louie found his path. It is impossible to condense the rich, granular detail of Hillenbrand's narrative of the atrocities committed (one man was exhibited naked in a Tokyo zoo for the Japanese to 'gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body') against American POWs in Japan, and the courage of Louie and his fellow POWs, who made attempts on Watanabe's life, committed sabotage, and risked their own lives to save others. Hillenbrand's triumph is that in telling Louie's story (he's now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. (Nov.) -Reviewed by Sarah F. Gold" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review" by , "It is hugely refreshing when [a book] as fine as this one comes along. The research is meticulous, the writing elegant and concise, so that every page transports you back to the period....This is a remarkable tale well told."
"Review" by , “Extraordinarily moving...a powerfully drawn survival epic.”
"Review" by , “[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.”
"Review" by , “A meticulous, soaring and beautifully written account of an extraordinary life.”
"Review" by , “Ambitious and powerful...a startling narrative and an inspirational book.”
"Synopsis" by , In her long-awaited new book, Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a young lieutenant's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
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