Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

Warning: don't start this book while you are in a vacation with your family. They will think you are a party pooper for wanting to sit and read while they want to go do stuff!

This book had me right from the prologue. It is an amazing story. It is the story of Louie Zamperini, a man born in the 1920s that grew up in Torrance, CA. He was a kid that no one could tame: stealing, lying, and doing all he could to cause trouble. He was a fast runner (maybe from having to run from being caught?) and in University trained for and went to the Olympics. His Olympic pursuits got stopped by the 2nd world war. He was a pilot and ended up crashing and survived longer on a raft than anyone else ever has. The stories of survival on the raft were astounding to me! But that was only the beginning. He ended up getting caught by the Japanese and was a POW. I had to read those chapters with one eye closed. The things those POWs endured were unbelievable!

I have a confession. Don't tell the librarians. When I read a book, I turn down the corner of pages I want to remember, or write about. Well, if I am being really good I write down the page number, or make some notes.....but sometimes, when the story is really gripping, I can't take the time to write anything - so I just turn down the page. I had a bunch if turned down pages in this book because I had to keep reading and find out what was going to happen.

There was a common thread in many of the turned down pages: choice in how to respond to the cards people are dealt.

p. 147 It means a mystery why these three young men, veterans of the same training and the same crash, differed so radically in their perceptions of their plight. Maybe the difference was biological; some men may be wired for optimism, others for doubt.
In this part of the story there are three men who are on the life rafts. One of them eats the only food they have while the other two sleep. It was a choice that proved to be a drastically terrible one for them all. And in the end, the one who ate the food never survived. He also didn't survive the trials along the way very well.

When the war is over and the POWs are ready to celebrate, they are told:

p. 309 The POWs immediately gathered for a thanksgiving service. They were told that they must not seek revenge; they were officers and gentlemen, and they were to behave that way.
I was stunned. I had to read that page over a few times to really let the expectation sink in. Here they had been treated worse than animals, and the response was that they were not to seek revenge. If anyone deserved to do so it was them!

Almost all the soldiers suffered immensely after the war. They didn't really know much about post traumatic stress disorder back then, but they all sure suffered from it:

p. 348 Some former POWs became almost feral with rage. For many men, seeing an Asian person or overhearing a snippet of Japanese left them shaking, weeping, enraged, or lost in flashbacks. One former POW, normally gentle and quiet, spat at every Asian person he saw. At Letterman General Hospital just after the war, four former POWs tried to attack a staffer who was of Japanese ancestry, not knowing that he was an American veteran.
It is amazing to me, that now, years later, we live and rub shoulders with Japanese people all the time. I wonder how hard it was for people to look beyond the war and be accepting?

p. 366 The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent on those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer. In seeking the Bird's death to free himself, Louie had chained himself, once again, to his tyrant. during the war, the Bird had been unwilling to let go of Louie; after the war, Louie was unable to let go of the Bird.
In the story Louie does learn to forgive and learn to let go.

p. 375 Louie found himself thinking of the moment at which he had woken in the sinking hull of Green Hornet, the wires that had trapped him a moment earlier now, inexplicably, gone. And he remembered the Japanese bomber swooping over the rafts, riddling them with bullets, and yet not a single bullet had struck him, Phil, or Mac. He had fallen into unbearably cruel worlds, and yet he had borne them. When he turned these memories in his mind, the only explanation that he could find was one in which the impossible was possible.
Louie is finally able to forgive and let go.

p. 379 At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was over.
And when I finally finished the book, I could finally take a breath again. Wow! This is an amazing story. A must read!

7 and 8/58 
(this book was 400 pages long with very small I figure I will count it as two books!)

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