Contrary to more ambiguous titles in the book world, this one tells you exactly what you will read about.
This story immediately throws you into a scenario of a devastating predicament for a young soldier, Louis Zamperini. Stranded for weeks in the middle of the ocean on a failing raft, enemy fire from above and sharks looming below. The author then leaves you hanging there in the uncertainty of survival and takes you to Zamperini's early years - all the while knowing that somehow he will end up in this unfortunate introductory scene.
And there was more to come. Violence, isolation, starvation and disease. It is a true story through and through, and all I could think was, unbelievable. As in, how could one man have endured such atrocity? And, are humans really capable of this kind of brutality toward one another? This is a captivating story, a page-turner that forces you to refer back to the front cover multiple times, simply as a reminder that, as suggested by the title, this man indeed survives.
Here a few take-aways for me in the story:
It's horrible. It's outrageous. This World War II account takes you into the underbelly of human beings at their worst. I wish it were a thing of the past, but it is not. It is an ever-present reality for our world today, and I fear, for as long as people inhabit this earth. There's an observation in the book about the cost of human dignity. We ought never to forget what war costs, for all of us, everywhere.
The recent Olympics reminded me of the kind of physical, emotional, and psychological strength that some people are capable of drawing out of themselves. But what if it isn't voluntary or for sport? What if it is a matter of life and death, a test of survival? To be living off a few grains of rice, to be beaten to a pulp, to be force-fed a whopping dose of terror, to be ripped violently of human dignity - and to keep going? Un-freaking-believable. That is resilience.
We are never too far gone for redemption. And we ought to remember what kind of influence we can have on others in extending grace, love and an opportunity for healing. This part of the story was a surprise for me. We simply wanted our protagonist to survive, and he did. But thrive? Again, unbelievable.
Thank you, Laura Hillenbrand, for working so diligently and writing so beautifully to accurately share this one man's story.
Who else has read this book? What were your impressions?