For the last year or so I had been hearing about a book called Unbroken. I would see it recommended on a blog or Facebook, or hear about it in a conversation and wonder what all the talk was about. While I enjoy learning about World War II, and appreciate movies that tell the stories of the war, I found it hard to believe that I would actually like a book that chronicled the life, plight, and survival of a Pacific POW during the Second World War.
Boy was I wrong. This book is amazing—at least in my humble opinion. Just ask my husband. I could not put it down. I even kept it after it was due to the library so I could finish it late one night (bad, I know). And it was totally worth the extra 20 cents I will have to pay. By the time I finished the book I felt like Louis Zamperini (the main character) was my friend. So much so that when I saw that he was on Jay Leno the other night I contemplated staying up late to watch him. I didn’t. But it crossed my mind.
So why did I enjoy this book so much? Besides the fact that it was just a really good story that rapt my attention, there were some key things that struck me as I read it. Maybe it will peak your interest too and cause you to run to your local library and grab the book.
First (and most obvious) is the power of the human will to survive. This is a book about a man (and multiple men) living through horrible suffering both at the hands of human beings and at the hands of nature. Many times I thought to myself “I could never survive that.” But I would imagine thought that before those moments too. In the face of tremendous suffering, God gives people common grace to endure. Even when Louis wanted to die and leave the horrors of the POW camp, he held on. Why? I think partly because deep within every human being is the reality that death is unnatural. God created us to live, not die. Sin brought death, and ever since that day we have been looking for ways to fight death and live forever. Even when all hope seems lost at rescue Louis, and many of the other men, held on because deep down they really wanted to live.
Second (and most heartbreaking) is the depravity of man. Any notion that we are somehow growing more enlightened, and thus less sinful, is shattered in studying any war, especially this one. The violence that Louis and the other men faced was atrocious and inhumane. The fact they survived it is a mercy of the Lord. These parts of the book were hard to read, but it allowed me to really grasp how something like this can haunt a man for the rest of his life. And it did for so many of them. A lot of the former POWs never recovered from the trauma of these camps, and I now see why. Reading this was a reminder once again that sin is a nasty enemy that strips any hope of goodness from our very being. We are a depraved people in desperate need of a Savior.
Third (and most hopeful) is the power of the Gospel displayed in the book. What made this book even more remarkable was the redemption Louis experienced. After returning from Japan he faced an uphill battle of painful memories, recovery from injuries, and addiction to alcohol. In many ways, his life saw little improvement even though he was free from the confines of a POW camp. Every effort to rid himself of the horrors he experienced came back void until he was confronted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached by Billy Graham. When Christ invaded his life and regenerated him he was a new man. Gone were the nightmares and binge drinking escapades. Gone were the fits of rage. Gone was his hatred for those who had abused him in Japan. His changed life was a reminder of the sufficient power of Christ to change a life. Only when Jesus broke through was healing, forgiveness, and change possible.
So those are my thoughts on the book. I liked it so much that I was sad when it was over, which is always a good sign. If you are interested in World War II, a good story, history, or all of the above, run—don’t walk—to your library to get the book. It is summer after all, and this book makes for excellent poolside reading. Trust me, I know.