4 1/2 stars.
Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit) tells the spellbinding story of the life of Louis Zamperini, from his days as a feral, street-wise youth, to his success as an Olympic runner, to his harrowing experiences in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and finally to his coping in the aftermath of returning home.
I typically read fiction for pleasure, and much nonfiction feels stilted and unmoving to me. But there were times in this incredible story when I was on the edge of my seat. Hillenbrand did a commendable job of conveying the epic adventure of Zamperini’s life along with an amazing array of facts, statistics, and little-know tidbits about the period.
The reason I did not give the book a full five stars is a small complaint that I’ve read from other reviewers: Some of the amazing revelations are glossed over a bit. A few nearly unbelievable facts are not really explained or expounded on to the level they seem to deserve. Some might say that this is due to the author not wanting to intercede in offering merely what happened, and not why or what it’s significance was. But this isn’t the case; she explains many things throughout the book for readers’ greater understanding, but then leaves others hanging in midair.
Despite this one nagging little issue, the book is overwhelmingly worth reading. In fact, everyone should read it (or another book like it); it brings home to the heart what some have had to suffer, makes one think hard and long about what we take for granted and how we treat others, and provides a shining example of mind-over-matter attitude — in the end, Zamperini and others around him survived their ordeals due to their deep senses of self-worth, optimism, and dignity. And, Louis would add, the grace of God. It’s a true-life lesson for EVERYONE!