Did you ever seen the movie Papillon? If so, do you remember the part (spoiler–skip to the second paragraph if you haven’t seen it) when you realize that Steve McQueen is going back into solitary again? For five years!
It’s abrupt and awful all I could say was “Oh no.” It made me feel sick.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, is full of moments like those, but since you know the hero survives, the dread at each worsening beat of the story is tempered.You know Louis Zamperinin is going to survive. But similar to Touching the Void, it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine how he’s going to survive.
I’ve been listening to Unbroken on audio. I’ve laughed at myself a few times as I’ve realized that I am actually saying “No. Oh no” while I’m driving. There is a scene where Zamperini is dealing with two threats at once and I realized I wasn’t breathing.
I’ve never been so riveted by a story. And it’s a story without frills of flash.
In a recent interview, Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker, The Blind Side, The Big Short, and most recently, Boomerang, states:
As a reporter and a writer, if you just respect what happened, you don’t need to make things up.
I’ve been thinking of that while reading Unbroken. Hillenbrand just reports. She respects the story. I feel like I have gotten to know the men in the story very well, which is a major part of the book’s effectiveness, but it is essentially a narrative of a sequence of events.
This happens. Then this happens. Etc.
But the events of the story are so unbelievable and heartbreaking and moving and wonderful that it works better than any novel I’ve ever read.
I’ll stop gushing here. Further description will cheapen an indescribable story, and might rob you of the pleasure of diving into this one blind. That’s what I’d urge. Pick it up, don’t read the jacket copy, don’t read any reviews, don’t do anything but start reading.
Then let me know how it goes.
Books like Unbroken are why I read. It makes me want to be a better person, just because I sat still long enough to hear a story about another person’s life.
Please try it. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
And, if you’re not in the book club, please join. I send out an email at the beginning of each month with a book selection for everyone to read. I try to pick unusual books.