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Laura Hillenbrand

Random House
August 22
Matt McGlynn

Laura Hillenbrand is an American author born in Virginia on May 15, 1967.
After spending her childhood on her fathers farm in rural Virginia Hillenbrand went
on to attend Kenyon College in Ohio. Although she never graduated, Hillenbrand
went on to begin a successful career writing essays and articles for numerous
magazines and papers such as the New Yorker, New York times, La Times and USA
Today. In 2001 Laura wrote her first book, the critically acclaimed and national
bestseller Sea biscuit: an American legend. Since then she has written only one other
book in 2010, another best seller and TIME magazine book of the year, Unbroken.

Louis Zamperini, an energetic troublemaker from Torrance, California is the
center of attention of Hillenbrands masterpiece. Born in 1917 to Italian immigrants
who spoke little English, Louie was raised in the town of Torrance. Louie was
notorious for getting in trouble, whether it was by getting in fights or stealing food
from his neighbors little Louie had a knack for raising hell. To distract Louie from
getting in trouble, his brother Pete encouraged him to participate on the track team.
On the track, Louie found his true passion. Focusing all his energy once spent on
troublemaking now on training for races, Louie quickly became one of the countries
top milers. Setting many collegiate and national records Louie was able to qualify
for the 1936 summer Olympic games. At the games, Louie finished eighth in his
competition which was a great feat considering his youth.

Louies celebrity status was short lived as the United States entered World
War 2 in 1941. Zamperini enlisted in the air force where he became a bombardier in
a plane bombing crew. Assigned to the island Funafuti in the pacific theater, Louie
and his crew partook in many successful bombing runs. In April 1943 Louie and
some of his crew were assigned to fly to search for a missing plane, thought to have
crashed at sea. While on the search, plane malfunctions caused them to crash into
the Pacific Ocean killing 8 of the 11 on board. Louie and two other men survived the
crash and took shelter on a raft deployed from the plane. With little food and water
on the raft, the men relied on birds, fish and rainstorms to survive. Thirty-three days
into their plight one man succumbed to starvation and was laid to rest at sea. The
Japanese Navy finally captured the men on their 47
day at sea. There Louie and his
crewmate embarked on a journey of captivity, beatings and severe mistreatment
until the end of the war. All in all, Louie was transported to 5 different locations in
Japanese control where he was starved, beaten and deprived of his dignity. By the
time the war was over, Louie was on the verge of death as he suffered from a sever
case of dysentery as well as being critically undernourished and underweight.

Post War Louie saw a steep rise in fame as he was previously thought by the
entire country to have died in his plane crash two years earlier. Following his return
home Louie won countless awards and was constantly being invited as a guest
speaker for many different events. In 1946 He married Cynthia Applewhite who he
was married too until her death in 2001. Like many war veterans Louie suffered
from PTSD and began drinking as a way to forget his experiences. Not long after the
war Louie became a full-fledged alcoholic which was severely hurting his
relationships with family and friends. In an attempt to save their marriage Cynthia
encouraged Louie to hear an evangelist Billy Graham speak. After listening to
Graham talk on multiple occasions, Louie became a Born again Christian and gave
up drinking. He fixed his severed relationships and lived the rest of his time on earth
peacefully forgiving those who did wrong to him in his life. Although not mentioned
in the book, Louie Zamperini died on July 2
2014 at age 97.
There were many themes present in the story Unbroken. The three main
themes that I discovered were survival, toughness and redemption. These themes
were thoroughly portrayed and became the backbone for the novel.
During the war, Louie and his fellow Americans main focus was that of
survival. Whether it was in battle on land, plane or boat, the men did whatever it
took to survive. Louie himself was a living testament of survival as he survived
numerous air battles, a deadly plane crash and two years of harsh treatment in
multiple prisoner of war camps. The bulk of the Novel itself is the amazing plight
and survival of Louie and his counterparts in certain death situations.
As the theme of survival plays out through the story, another theme emerges
that goes hand in hand with it. Toughness is a necessary component for survival and
takes a major role in the novel. Soldiers are all required to be physically and
mentally tough to endure the hardships of battle. In the Novel, Louies toughness is
pushed to its extreme limits as he fights to survive. The reader is eased into the
toughness theme beginning with the numerous air battles Louie partakes him. Louie
s toughness is called upon, as he needs to be a precise and efficient bomber in the
heat of battle. As Louies plane crashes and his fate turns for the worse the reader is
introduced to a whole new level of tough. Louies forty-seven day fight for survival
on the raft required him to be physically tough by overcoming starvation and
minimal water. It also called on him to be mentally tough to avoid going crazy with
fear, anxiety or depression. As Louie was captured he had to remain physically
tough to endure the beatings and mistreatment delivered by the Japanese. As his
dignity was taken away from him, Louies mental toughness kept him determined
and focused on survival.
Redemption is a major theme in two sub stories of Louies life. As a kid,
Louie was a rough troublemaker whose main hobbies were fighting and stealing.
With a bleak future ahead of him Louies brother, Pete, encouraged him get involved
with the track team. As Louie became a star runner his behavior improved and his
future brightened as he was offered a full scholarship to USC. Running track was
able to redeem Louie of his troublesome ways as it set him on the path to a good
education and Olympic running. Redemption is also seen through Louies post war
experiences with alcoholism. After the war, Louie was full of hate and turned to
alcohol to forget about his problems. As he dipped deeper into alcoholism Louie
destroyed many relationships with his friends and family. In a last ditch effort to
save Louie, his wife Cynthia forced Louie to listen to n evangelist speaker. After
several experiences listing to the speaker Louie became a born again Christian and
recovered his faith. He forgave those who faulted him in the past and was on the
trail to living a good life. Louies newfound faith redeemed himself of his harmful
alcoholism as it repaired his relationships and saved his life.
Laura Hillenbrand was able to right a gripping and exciting novel on a very
interesting topic. She was able to put a twist on the common story of World War 2
known to everyone. Laura clearly tells Louies story in a manner that wasnt tedious
as she added vivid details and interesting facts to keep the reader interested.
Throughout the novel I rarely wanted to put the book down which is a testament to
Hillenbrands ability to draw the reader in and keep him interested on the topic.
Unbroken was a great read and definitely ranks on my all time favorite book list.