This was originally published as part of a “Book Meme” for Day 1: The best book you read last year. I’m bringing it forward, with the book title because it’s such a great book.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars, and it was one of my 4 top reads for 2011.
Unbroken is a wonderful book by a truly gifted author. The book tells a story that is filled with hope and despair, joy and sorrow, maltreatment and forgiveness.
Like American Nightingale by Bob Welch, and Salt In Our Blood by Michele Longo Eder, this is a difficult read, and not just because of the subject matter. The story is so well written, and the historical figures are so well developed, I felt as though I’d known them all my life; and deep inside I wished with all my heart that each of them would survive and live healthy, happy lives. I knew this wouldn’t happen, but still my heart hoped. So with the loss of each person, my heart broke and I would cry. Still I read on—I had to—for the future of others was still waiting for me.
My stomach would churn as I read about the POW camps and the treatment of these heroes. I find it strange that the world has long focused on the horrors of the Nazi POW camps and Jewish concentration camps of WWII, yet little is said about the horrors of the Japanese POW camps of WWII. Having heard Kay Friederichsen speak at a woman’s retreat, I’d already heard about the treatment of some people in Japanese camps; but never did I dream it was worse than what Kay had shared. I hurt as I read the story of Louis Zamperini in the camps. I ached as I read the story of Louie once he returned home and he let his life fall apart. While I can see the reasons for his emotional pain, there were times when I wanted to find him and shake him.
Then I read about Louie’s salvation. As I got to the paragraph where Billy Graham extends a personal invitation to Louie, I remembered all those nights that my family sat and listened to Billy Graham (TV and radio). How often I heard him say something so similar. I remembered my dad telling about the night he went forward. I remembered the teen crusade I attended and how my heart longed for the peace of Christ. As I read the words, “ ‘This is it,’ said Graham. ‘God has spoken to you. You come on.’ ”, my heart rejoiced. The horrors shared in the book washed away. The sadness and despair lifted from my shoulders and I rejoiced. Louie had finally found the joy and love he had so long sought.
What a testimony his life is. Would I find it in my heart to forgive as he has? I’m not sure I would. I’ve faced far less in my life and have had a hard time letting go of the bitterness.
How often in life we fail to see that God is polishing us and preparing us for what is ahead. For surely He knows our future and what we will face. He knows how we will fail, yet He loves us still and stands with us—holding us up when we don’t even realize it. Just as He loved Louie and held him up.
Such a wonderful book. One that has renewed the joy within my heart.