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Some of you might be disgusted at this but I am unashamedly proud of myself for finishing the thick biography on local World War II hero, Louie Zamperini, in only eight weeks!
“Unbroken”, written by Lauren Hildenbrant.
Louie Zamperini’s story is one of victory over extreme hardship and redemption at its deepest, grittiest level. It is not an easy read, meaning it’s not necessarily the book you would choose to cuddle up with on a rainy day to replenish your soul. But, I was so encouraged when I closed the book at the end of eight weeks!
The cruelty that Louie (World War II prisoner of the Japanese) and his fellow POWs faced are almost unspeakable. A particularly sadistic Japanese soldier, nicknamed the Bird, worked to dehumanize and destroy all that Louie was. He beat him on a daily basis. He tormented him at any opportunity. And if a wasting body starved for nutrition wasn’t enough, the Bird strove to starve Louie from all dignity by giving him duties around the camp that were humiliating, like cleaning out the dysentery-filled outhouses with his bare hands.
When World War II finally ended, all surviving prisoners were sent home to live life as though all had returned to normal. There was little understanding or resources for men who were still living out the hell of war in their dreams and in visions during the daylight.
Louie Zamperini was no exception. There weren’t many that understood the horrible trials he had survived. The only times he spoke of his trials at war were at the speaking engagements he was asked to make around the country. At night, the Bird tormented his dreams. He dreamt the Bird was on top of him, strangling him. Eventually, Louie learned to drown his fears and anxiety with alcohol.
As the drinking and nightmares continued Louie lost jobs, fist fights, and finally his wife and daughter in a pending divorce.
It wasn’t until Jesus got a hold of Louie’s wife through a sermon by none other than Billy Graham that Louie’s life began to change for the better. After much nagging by the wife (not necessarily recommended) and neighbor, Louie went to two sermons by Graham and finally gave in to Jesus. He immediately went home, threw away all the liquor and hidden magazines. That night he slept his first peaceful night in several years. The Bird was gone. After that his speaking tour was no longer a burden, but a glorious opportunity to share the Gospel, even in Japan in front of his former prison guards.
His marriage was saved. His life was cleansed. He was redeemed from a pit of hatred and captivity.
This book was an amazing read, but it is grizzly. It is not a story for the faint of heart or a weak stomach. But if you like biographies or appreciate being reminded of our limitless, gracious God, this is the book for you.
And if you read it, write back, and tell us what you think.