I don’t read much non-fiction, but I have been long interested in WWII history. Unfortunately, once I was finished taking history classes, it seemed I decided I was finished reading on it as well. I don’t think I was consciously thinking that, but keep in mind that it took me until last year to start reading for fun again. I asked for this book for my birthday and received it, but it took me a few months to get around to it because it was more intimidating that the young adult literature I had ready to read as well. But after hearing another high recommendation from a friend who doesn’t even care much for reading, I decided it was finally time to delve into it.
The story focuses on a guy named Louie, who got in trouble a lot as a kid. That is, until his brother helps him focus his energy into running. Louie isn’t wild about running at first, but after a while, it consumes him. He beats high school records, gets a college scholarship, beats more records, and start setting his sights on the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He makes it to the Olympics, though he does not medal, but he starts setting his sights once again for the 1940 Olympics.
But then war begins, and international turmoil causes the Olympics to be cancelled. Louie ends up joining the service. In 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Louie was going to war. As an air serviceman, he was sent to Hawaii. He formed a bond with the men on his plane and other men in his camp, but it was a daily, pain-staking reality that many men would not return from their missions. And one day it was his plane that did not return. But Louie and two other men from his plane survived.
I don’t want to share too much more, because there is a lot to be said for going into this story blind. But I will say that after the plane crash survival, the story is all downhill for quite a while. Louie faces an extreme amount of hardship for the duration of the war.
I knew this book was supposed to be amazing and have a hopeful ending, so I kept pushing through it. It was exhausting and grueling to read through all Louie’s trials, and Hillebrand does such a great job of putting you in Louie’s head and helping you understand the gravity of the situation. I like how she had not just his point-of-view though, but combines what he knows with what people on the outside knew then or what we know now from history, to paint a very descriptive picture that really defines the gravity of the situation. She seriously did her research. And then when he gets home and things seem to get better, things go wrong again.
But, in the end, there is hope and redemption. And it makes everything before it worth it, both for the reader and for Louie. It is emotional and amazing, and it made me respect our servicemen and women ten times more than I already did, especially my grandfather, who also fought in the Pacific during WWII. This is a book that I believe everyone should read (well, everyone about 18 and up I would say). It’s a story about the human spirit and history and how twisted man can become but also how forgiving man can be. It’s a story for everyone. If you haven’t read it, seriously, READ IT. And buy the printed version so you can get a good look at the great photographs scattered throughout.
Have you read Unbroken? What are your thoughts? Have you read any other great WWII books I should add to my TBR list?