After reading this book I have only one thing to say:
Oh. My. Word.
Actually, I have a lot to say, but to avoid spoilers, I’ll try to condense my thoughts.
I’ve read half a dozen books by former POWs which made me a little nervous that I’d be underwhelmed by this one. I needn’t have worried. Louis Zamperini’s story is broader than his POW experience and Hillenbrand is a masterful storyteller. It is a tribute to her writing that whenever my husband asked me to read something out loud from the book, I never had to search for interesting passages. I just shared from the exact spot where I was reading and everyone in the room sat transfixed.
Born in 1917, Zamperini was a kid who couldn’t stay out of trouble. His hair-raising escapades kept his parents (and the local police) on edge. As a teen he was encouraged by his brother Pete to take up running. He ran track in high school and his records were so impressive that he made it to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the youngest U.S. qualifier in the 5,000 meter race. When World War II arrived, he joined the U.S. Army Air Forces as a bombardier. The details of his brushes with death (even before being taking as a POW) coupled with the horrors of his internment make Louie’s story almost impossible to put down.
You do not have to be a history buff to enjoy this book. It is a masterful piece of writing about an extraordinary man who refused to give up hope no matter how difficult the circumstances.