My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Juvenile delinquent, practical joker, track star, Olympic runner, WWII bombardier, POW, survivor. . . these are all ways to identify Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand's fascinating biography. I was riveted to this story. As a child, Zamperini was a menace. He stole food from neighbors, played practical jokes, and had a reputation for wild living, even before the age of 10. In adolescence he discovered running and soon set world records for the mile. He attended the 1936 Olympics as part of the US track team, and trained hard for the 1940 Helsinki Games. Unfortunately WWII broke out and his dream of Olympic gold was dashed. He joined the army and became a bombardier, sent to fight in the Pacific theater. On one of his mission, his plane crashed into the ocean. He and 2 others were the only men to survive the crash, and for 46 days, Louis fought off sharks, subsisted on albatross and pilot fish caught with hooks made from the bird bones and his hands, and on rain water. Finally reaching land, Zamperini was captured by the Japanese, spending the rest of the war as a POW. The story of how he (and others) managed to physically survive the torture and abuse is both horrific and inspirational. After liberation and repatriation, Zamperini struggles with what we now know as post-traumatic stress syndrome, before he eventually finds the peace he longs for.
Like many other readers, I had a hard time putting this book down. Hillenbrand's narrative is compelling and her research is outstanding.
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