In hindsight, it may not have been the best choice for a beach read. But during my recent vacation, I packed Unbroken (in real book form!) to read without interruption while listening to the waves roll in. The subtitle of this book is "A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption." While lounging at the pool cabana, I almost forgot my surroundings as I read a horrifying story of one man's experience as a Japanese prisoner-of-war. It was more gruesome than I anticipated, but also more edifying.
I also noticed I wasn't the only one reading it. I spotted it a few times on various beach chairs.
While two-thirds of the book is about survival of some of the most tragic circumstances, the redemption eventually does come along! I am writing about it here because I think younger generations need to understand the incredible scale of sacrifice that World War II demanded. It's also a hopeful read for any current veterans who are struggling with PTSD. (The first of many spoiler alerts: While the gospel is not clearly articulated, the broad concept is in the book and it could open the door for ministry.)
Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete whose athletic fame actually made it far worse for him as a POW. It is also the story of the quiet providence of God, working all circumstances together for the good of those who will eventually bow their knees before the Almighty. As resilient as God made Louis Zamperini to be (he is still alive at this writing), He also graced author Laura Hillenbrand with the taut prose of high adventure. Her persistent research rewards the reader with myriad visual details and concurrent references to other historical events that place Zamperini's personal experience in the turbulent context of the 20th century.
Though it's not necessary to know anything about the author, before I read Unbroken I had read several other press accounts about Hillenbrand's own resilience in her struggle with chronic fatigue. No doubt this helped shape the tone and perspective of this incredible narrative, imbuing it with a vivid, indelible empathy that keeps the reader in suspense even if the end of the story is already familiar.
I recommend Unbroken without hesitation, but especially for those who think they are close to breaking with their own life circumstances. It can be hard to believe God is in the deepest, darkest moments of one's life until you see the traces of providence in the suffering of another. We owe much to those who fought against two aggressors with world-dominating plans in World War II; this book highlights how greatly we are indebted for our freedoms today.