It is with trepidation that I approach the keyboard to write this book review because right after I slammed the book shut and responded to husband’s query as to how was the book, my knees buckled and I was bodily filled with such over-whelming emotion that my entire world began to spin and my mind was a blur. I don’t remember ever being so inundated by such an emotional flood and it was both painful and beautiful. I found myself sobbing out my assertion that this was ….such…..a…..good….book.
In fact, there were many parts of this book that I could not read in great detail, at times poring quickly over a page than moving on. This is certainly not because the story or the writing were somehow inferior. Indeed the story was a riveting one, the writing perfect, not fussy, straightforward; detail-laden without being ponderous.
For this story of Louis Zemperini was a tale that grabs the reader by both the heart and the guts and keeps a clenched fist on both throughout the read.
It cannot be emphasized enough that this is a TRUE story, as difficult as it all may be to believe. The best story writers of Hollywood could not create a story of survival that includes months lost as sea, years spent in the horror of a brutal POW camp, a triumphant return home to a downfall of a life almost lost, to a final redemption and salvation, a tale that plumbs the depths of despair to the mighty climb to a holy victory.
Louis Zemperini began life as a rapscallion of the highest order. He was from a rowdy by loving Italian family and he spent his youth involved in all sorts of mischief that at some point led him to a career as an Olympic track star. The book details Zemperini’s rise to a track star on to his enlistment in the Air Force and then the story gets difficult.
For what Zemperini went through both as a survivor at sea of a plane wreck on to life as a Japanese prisoner of war is not reading for the meek. Many times I had to shut the cover and walk away just to re-gain my composure and settle my stomach. A lot of the story isn’t pretty.
And yet this was one of those few books in my vast reading experience that had me waking up in the morning with a smile as the thought that there was still much to read left raced through my sleepy mind. It was the sort of novel that had me peering at the thickness of the unread pages still left to read, happy when the pile was thick, plotting how to extend the reading time as the pile grew smaller.
When I finally closed the book with a satisfied emotional slam, the entirety of the story finally filled my being and that’s when my knees buckled from the weight of it.
What an absolutely amazing, incredible, soul-shattering, blessed story that will stay with me forever. How lucky I am that Laura Hillenbrand took the time to research this hero’s story and tell the world about it.
Read it. Take a deep breath and prepare for a roller coaster of a story but whatever you do, do not leave this life without reading this book.