Recently a good friend, knowing my love for historical books, especially concerning World War II, let me borrow her copy of Unbroken: A World War II Story or Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I hadn’t heard of it, but was immediately enthralled by it as I began to read. It is an excellent book about the life of Louis Zamperini, Olympic athlete, WW II pilot, and prisoner of war. I highly recommend reading it.
In reading this book I happened upon the fact the author, Laura Hillenbrand, had never met Zamperini throughout her writing of the book, a detail I found odd. How do you write such a detailed, mesmerizing account having never met the person about whom you were writing?
Recently I discovered why – Hillenbrand, in writing Unbroken, was essentially physically unable to leave her home during the writing of the book because of a debilitating disease. A recent Washington Post article describes some of her odyssey in dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The author describes some of the same victories in Hillenbrand’s life:
The time she managed to take an entire shower standing up. The time she and her husband, Borden Flanagan, drove to the alley at the end of their block so she could see something other than the cemetery behind their yard, and the time, a few weeks later, that they drove all the way to Starbucks. Sat in the parking lot. Drove home.
Hillenbrand details her journey that began at the age of 19, when she first started suffering from CFS, in an award winning article in the New Yorker entitled, A Sudden Illness.
Many are hearing the story of Zamperini, which will undoubtedly be made into a movie, but not many have heard the story of Hillenbrand, who herself remains unbroken.