Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, was a complete shock to me. I read the message boards claiming it was a "must read" for runners. What I didn't gather though, was the extent to which it would impact me beyond just running. Unbroken is about a runner, but it reaches far beyond the track into some of the most personal and heart-breaking moments in life. It is the in-depth and gut wrenching tale of Louie Zamperini.
Zamperini was an Olympic 5,000 meter runner who was extremely driven and coached himself to Olympian status in 1936, shock the world with his speed and tenacity. At 19, Zamperini was the youngest to ever qualify for the 5,000. He was also a daredevil. After the Olympics, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. That is where Zamperini truly became known as a legend.
Hillenbrand takes the reader along with Louie as he enters the air force and soon faces the fight of his life that starts on a 2 person raft in the middle of the Pacific and ends behind enemy lines in Japan. "If I knew I had to go through those experiences again," Louie once said: "I'd kill myself."
I was enthralled with the character of Louie. And as someone who generally steers clear of historical novels, I could not put the book down. Hillenbrand does not just depict Louie's life, she unveils it in a way that the reader is swept along in his tale of unspeakable horror and ultimate peace and restoration in Christ. My eyes were opened to the amazing power of forgiveness in a way I have never grasped before. After reading Unbroken, I have an understanding of the life of a soldier-- and veteran-- that commands respect far beyond what I had ever imagined.
So, yes. Unbroken is a "must read" for runners. But it is also a must read for the soldier, the adventurer, the fighter and just about anyone who needs a major shift in perspective of the capacity for human survival. Louie, as I learned, did not only survive. He overcame. As a runner, as a soldier and as a man: His story is one worth telling, because it is unlike anything you have ever heard before.
I also look forward to seeing the movie adaptation as it hits theaters later this year. With any luck, I'll post a movie review shortly after it's Christmas debut. Until then, check out the official Olympic preview trailer, read about Louie's encounter with Billy Graham and read this amazing book!
And don't forget to read my review on Born to Run- another great book for runners!
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