Book Review: “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

As the new movie Unbroken hit theaters over Christmas, I have been intrigued by the glimpses of the story I have caught from movie previews. Surprisingly I had never heard the powerful story of Louis Zamperini, but the previews caught my attention when they showed an Olympic track athlete become a P.O.W. in World War II. As a runner, I love movies about great runners, and as the grandson of a WWII marine who took in a bullet in the Pacific Islands, I love historical movies about World War II. Check out one of the movie trailers below…

It looks like a great movie, and as is typically the case, the book is usually even better than the movie. While I hope to see the movie soon, I went ahead and read the book recently, and it was well worth the read. Written by Laura Hillenbrand, the acclaimed author of Seabiscuit, this #1 New York Times Bestseller has no shortage of action, suspense, amazement, heartache and emotional  highs and lows. What I did not realize going into this reading is that this was more than a story about a talented athlete turned tough soldier who faced unthinkable hardships as a P.O.W. At the root of it all, this is a story about prayer, salvation, forgiveness, conviction and utter dependence on God for survival. It is also a story about grace, repentance and transformation.

This is by no means your typical “Christian” book. It does not spend page after page talking about God. It does not offer theological teaching or tips about spiritual growth. It offers a realistic glimpse into the darkness of man with a shimmer of life-changing light from the Almighty God. While the mentions of God and miracles are not subtle or hidden, they are also not the main focus of every chapter. This book was written for all people, not just the Christian audience, and this is great because all readers can encounter God through a powerful story like this.

Because this is a realistic account of a soldier’s World War II experience, there is a fair share of cussing, often times referring to people’s nicknames. There is, as expected, a great deal of violence, and there are some pretty graphic elements. I suspect these things are also the cause of the PG-13 rating for the movie. These elements are all used to paint the scene of Zamperini’s experience, but the real story comes in the way God watches over Zamperini and radically changes his life. I have not seen the movie yet, but I imagine it leaves many of the details about Zamperini’s post-war struggles and eventually Christian conversion out of the story.

Once you get past the vulgarities of war, this book, in the end, ultimately shows how loving and powerful God truly is. Unbroken is worth definitely worth a read, but only for a mature audience.

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