Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a biography of the 1936 Olympic mile-runner Louis Zamperini. Zamperini came in seventh place that year, so he was not the winner in that respect. But his subsequent story is incredible and inspiring.
After being drafted into the Air Force during World War II, Zamperini served as a bombardier in the South Pacific. On a routine search for a missing plane, his plane, too, went down. Miraculously, he survived. Along with two others, he lived for 47 days on a two-person life raft, attacking sharks with oars, fishing, and strangling birds with his bare hands for food. But when he finally floated near land, it was in enemy territory. His Japanese captors made his two years as a POW more than miserable.
Just when I believed Zamperini’s story could not possibly get worse, it did. It seemed a miracle to me that he survived as he did. The end of his story is just as inspiring as his survival. He had the potential to be traumatized for life by his memories of his tormentors. He turned into an alcoholic when he first discovered he would no longer be able to run. But Zamperini’s story is a memorable one not just for the trauma he endured but for his remarkable recovery as he sought and developed the ability to forgive those who had wronged him. Zamperini’s story is inspiring for the hope he gives all of us in our quest to enjoy life despite life. Unbroken is well worth reading.