My dad (who gave me this book) likes to say, “Nothing is ever as good as it seems or as bad as it seems.” Fortunately he never says this when I’m celebrating something; he saves it for low moments. I began thinking of that line when I came to the part in Laura Hillenbrand’s UNBROKEN (subtitled: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption) when Louis Zamperini’s plane crashes into the Pacific and he finds himself on a life raft with two other soldiers. They have a little bit of chocolate (which, spoiler alert, the crazy one gobbles up, leaving them with NO food) and some water. Then nothing, just the raft in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by sharks and occasionally strafed by Japanese bombers. Days pass. They drift. They pray. They talk about recipes for food they might never eat again. More days pass. Did I mention they are in the middle of the ocean?
If this were a novel, you wouldn’t believe it, but because it’s a memoir, it’s a complete page-turner. You keep wondering, How are they going survive? ARE they going to survive? The title says it’s a “story of survival,” but really–How are they going to survive?
I am not going to give anything away except to say this: as I write this, Louis Zamperini is still alive. He is 94 (UPDATE: He passed away in 2014 at 97; here is the NY Times obituary). Laura Hillenbrand has told his story beautifully. All I can say, to both of them really, is BRAVO.
***BONUS NOTE FOR EDUCATORS: This book could really get kids excited about history, and they’d learn a ton about the Japanese and WWII.***