Saturday, February 25, 2012


A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

Laura Hillenbrand

Finished Reading: 02.2012

Read on the Nook

As if clinging to a deflating rubber raft for a month with two other grown men, after crashing a plane into the middle of shark infested waters in the Pacific Ocean (near enemy territory) isn't bad enough, how about mentioning that there's nothing to eat, nothing to drink and no way to move the raft in a sensible direction?

Louie Zamperini was born to cause trouble but learned to run his way out of it, escaping childhood scrapes and difficulties, growing up to be a dedicated runner and moving as fast as he could. He ran faster than almost anyone and found himself running all the way to the finish line at the 1936 Olympics hosted by Adolph Hitler. It would have been a great story if it ended there. A triumphant rise from a dusty childhood to shining Olympic gold!

Well we can't have that, ending the book in a reasonable place! Golly, we've got to go after Hitler. With the onset of war Louie was reinvented as a bomber crewman, flipping a switch of destruction, dropping bombs on the enemies of his country. Inevitably, he and his flying comrades fell victim to similar firepower from their Japanese counterparts in the Pacific theater, and the great runner who had gotten out of great trouble, found himself on a little yellow pin prick of a raft in the great blue expanse of infinity. He couldn't run away from the Japanese pilots who shot up his plane with hundreds of little sun punched holes, or the circling dark shadowy sharks.

The surviving airmen clung to life aboard their ill-equipped floatation device, striving only to live. Their amazing resilience and the epic tale of their survival is only half the story - literally only half the story. I thought this would be a nice place to say it's over! Maybe Louie and his buddies get picked up by a search and rescue helicopter after a month fighting sea sharks. Yeah! And there would be great patriotic music blaring through my mind as he goes home to kiss his mother and shake hands with a Senator or even the President. No, of course not.

I could not believe where the story turned next, a direction I won't say, because the constant surprise at every turn is astonishing! Surprise is an integral component to the workings of this story. You really have to experience it. Sometimes I can tell where a story is going, but I enjoy it despite the predictability because it's a good story and well told. This was completely unpredictable and as good a story of survival, over and over, as as has ever been told.

A final note to all sharks: stop tormenting poor floating humans and just eat them already! It will be a better outcome for you because we won't write bad things about you in our books.