Let's take a coffee break and discuss December's book Unbroken. If you haven't read Unbroken yet and hope to, this discussion will in no way diminish your experience of reading the book or watching the film.
Since we're already two weeks into the new year, many of you are flying through January's read #Girlboss. Thank you for your grace while I caught up from a whirlwind December.
1. How did you experience the book?
Unbroken is a modern Odyssey and the most impactful story I read in 2014. It was also the most challenging (A close tie with The Monuments Men, another book on WWII focusing on the European theater and the art looted by the Nazi leaders).
I've struggled to write this post. Commenting on a story as extravagantly tragic, and beautiful as Louie's without it feeling reductive is a feat.
Despite my best efforts, Unbroken is not a book I read quickly, averaging a clip of 20 pages a day. In contrast, I read 100 pages of #Girlboss last night without striving. Unbroken read more like a biopic than a story with an overarching message. This leaves me grateful for the movie which distilled Louie's journey beautifully, capturing his life's message.
My favorite moment came when Louie was in the raft dying of thirst, praying for rain...and the rain came. I was reminded of one of my favorite verses of scripture, Hosea 6:3:
Let us press on acknowledging the Lord;
As surely as the sun rises, He will appear;
He will come like the rain.
2. What was your favorite quote?
“A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain. Louie thought: Let go.”
3. Has this novel changed you—broadened your perspective? Have you learned something new or been exposed to different ideas?
It's rare we experience a story so compelling, horrific, yet also redemptive and convicting as Louie's. There's many reminders and takeaways, let's start with community.
Whether it was Louie's brother Pete, or his fellow POWs, Louie had someone rooting for him. The support community provides is integral to living whole, full lives. We can find that support in our families, our church homes, in school, or in a mentor, but we all need someone in our corner rooting for us and bearing our burdens alongside us. If we've got that, we can make it through any trial.
Second, Louie reminded me that our bodies believe what our minds tell them. Mac believed he'd die, and his body responded. Louie and Phil believed they would live to see the end of the war, to continue chasing their dreams, and they did.
In my own life, and in much more benign circumstances, I need to mind what I tell my body. If I tell myself I'm too tired to workout, I feel too tired too workout. When I wake up and tell myself I'm excited to start the day with a run, I feel just that.
Third, Louie reminded me how important it is to continue exercising our minds. He says if we don't make disciplined efforts to keep our minds sharp, our brains atrophy like any other muscle in our bodies. This piece of the story encouraged me to keep reading, writing, and pursuing new experiences every day. There's not a moment to lose if we want to live lives of continued growth.
4. Book versus movie?
While the meticulously researched book focused on the details of Louie's story, the movie focused on Louie's message of the indomitable human spirit and our capacity to endure and forgive. While it's not exactly appropriate to compare a decade of Laura Hillenbrand's research to a two hour movie, the movie brought the heart of the story to life.
Louie resided in Hollywood until his death in July 2014 at 97, just months before the release of his story in theaters across America. Louie did see the film before it aired. In December's Vanity Fair, Angelina Jolie recounts that extraordinary moment:
Louie was a part of the journey from the beginning. We’d call him sometimes and say “Does the raft look right,” or, “Did you or did you not have a screwdriver?” So he was always aware of it. But I hadn’t shown him the film. I was saving it. But I found out that he’d gone into the hospital, so I had it downloaded on my laptop and I drove to the hospital and held it over him, like this, so he could see it. And it’s hard to explain. How do you explain that moment? It wasn’t a judgment on a film and how well-acted or well-crafted it was. It was a man watching his life. It was a man at the end of his life, his extraordinary life—this mountain of a man, with his physical strength, at 97 years old . . . I had to help him a glass of water, his legs were very, very thin—watching himself run and win in the Olympics, watching his brother, watching his mother make gnocchi, watching all that he accomplished, all that he survived. And because he was a man of such strong faith, I think he was preparing himself, I know he was, preparing himself to die. And so he was also preparing himself to see his mother, and Phil, and Mac, and everybody. So it was hard to explain what it was. It was watching somebody relive all their experiences and prepare for that great, powerful, extraordinary, inspiring, long life to end.
Rest in peace, Louis Zamperini, your story lives on.
If you read or watched Unbroken, what did you think?
I'd love to know in the comments below. Or for further discussion of Unbroken, hop on over to YouTube for the video, our GoodReads home, or the brand new Facebook group! Choose your favorite platform for connecting with our other readers, or participate in each.
Thank you so much for reading along with me! I am deeply grateful for the community of well-read women we are creating.