I’m not sure this book needs any more glowing reviews. It’s gotten a lot of them in the book blogging world. Amy says it’s the best book she’s read this year (and that was in February), Janet highly recommends it and Sherry says it brought her to tears. For the most part, I agree with them. This is a fantastic book. For me, it was a burn-dinner-while-you’re-reading kind of book. A let-the-kids-watch-one-more-video-than-they-should-book. A read-in-all-the-cracks-and-crevices-of-your-life kind of book.
Briefly, it’s a biography of Louis Zamperini who was a Depression-era Olympic runner who ended up as a bombardier in WWII. He was shot down and endured unbelievable trials: first after surviving the plane crash and then as an prisoner in a series of Japanese POW camps. It’s an amazing story on many levels.
What I appreciated most about this book beyond Zamperini’s story was the insight I gained into the Pacific theater during WWII. I’m not a scholar of this time period in any way but what I have read has mostly been about the war in Europe. I realized that in my mind the war in the Pacific was sort of secondary. Reading this book disabused me of that notion completely. I also felt like I gained a better understanding of the events leading up to the decision to use the atomic bomb. Without a doubt, the bombs themselves were horrible, tragic and evil. However, for the first time I felt like I could see why leaders felt it was a necessary evil. I felt like in school I had only learned that this was a morally bankrupt act on America’s part without really learning anything about what was going on in Japan at the time.
The book isn’t without flaws. It’s difficult to discuss the flaws without giving away spoilers, so I’ll just say it’s not perfect. Hillenbrand says on the cover that this is a story of “survival, resilience and redemption” and that is true. I think thought that it is better described as a story of grace. In the end, that message was what made this book, despite it’s flaws, one that deeply touched me and is one I will remember for years to come.