This is the story of a remarkable man. Louis Zamperini was a 1930 track star who ran in the Berlin Olympics. Then World War II happened and he became part of the Air Force. In May 1943 his plane crashed into the Pacific and he spent an incredible 47 days adrift on a raft, surrounded by sharks and eating raw birds and fish that he caught. The Japanese found him and he was sent to a Japanese P.O.W. camp. There he was singled out by a sadistic prison guard named Watanabe who beat him viciously every single day. Beatings were common. Starving was common. Disease was common.
Somehow he survived all this and returned to his home after he was liberated in 1945. He married a beautiful girl and suffered for years from severe PTSD. No one understood it then, he had headaches, anxiety attacks and nightmares about the man who beat him mercilessly with fists and the buckle of his belt. His tormentor was found and Zamperini wanted to meet with him - to forgive him. Watanabe refused.
Why does one man survive severe trauma and another perish from it? Hillenbrand brings this man's life into focus completely and vividly. She writes as if she's writing a thriller and draws you into the story so completely, you feel as if you know this man. She makes you admire and pity him at the same time. This is a compelling story, told by an writer who is very good at what she does.