On my recent road trip to Minnesota, my friend lent me an audio book of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.
I listened to about half of the book while driving, and when I got home I purchased a copy of it because I wanted to know how it ended. I had heard that Louie Zamperini had became a Christian, and was curious to hear how that would be depicted in the book. I had also heard that the movie about the book hadn’t been such a big box office hit as was expected, partly because of the brutality of the depiction of Zamperini’s time as a POW in Japan.
I found the book incredible, and was moved to tears at the account of Zamperini’s conversion and how his heart and his life were transformed by the Gospel. It seemed that everything that had happened until that point – all of the brutality, all of the providence – had been building up to the radical redemption that God worked in his life.
Zamp became a man who was so changed by the Gospel that he was willing to forgive his abusers and was set free from addiction to love his family and work to see other broken people redeemed.
The title of the book has an intentional dual meaning: He was unbroken in the sense that he had survived intensely trying and difficult experiences – and he was un-broken in the sense that his brokenness was healed and he was restored by the power of the Gospel.
I’m not sure if I want to see the movie now after having read the book… I can’t imagine how they could fit into a relatively short film all of the aspects of Zamperini’s life and conversion that were so important to the story.
Here is a quote from the book I found particularly insightful from the period of Louie’s brokenness, before he received the Gospel:
The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent on those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only from making their tormentors suffer. In seeking [his tormentor]’s death, Louie had chained himself once again to his tyrant.
All he had left was his alcohol and his resentment, the emotion that, Jean Améry would write, “nails every one of us onto the cross of his ruined past”.