Reading Through Tears


So I'm reading this book titled Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I think I've mentioned this before. I reserved it at the library, and when I went to pick it up, the librarian nicely informed me that I wasn't going to be able to renew it because someone else had already reserved it after me. 

Thus began a frantic week during which I carried said book with me and read it during any possible downtime. I became haunted by the thought of having to return the book before I had finished, forgetting that if necessary I could just eat the $.5 fine and turn it in late. 

Sometimes the thought of reading when I'm not at work isn't appealing at all, but this book has made me obsessed. 

The story skips around and seems almost stream of consciousness at points (especially in the beginning) and occasionally focuses on details I'm not sure are entirely necessary. This would be something that I would cut out if I were editing the book, and it's for sure something that would annoy me if I were reading a different book. But for some reason, it doesn't annoy me at all.

I was puzzled as to why. Then, I had an epiphany. 

It's because this book is true. The main character, Louis, is a real person, and everything that happened in the book is based on interviews with real people. The author, Laura Hillenbrand, included at least 10 pages of end notes in the back of the book, documenting interviews, articles, videos, and any other sort of media you can imagine. So the fact that the story at times seems a bit jumpy actually adds to its appeal, at least for me. 

Without giving away too many spoilers, I'll just say that through a series of events, our hero, Louis, ends up spending the majority of WWII shuffled between Japanese POW camps. At these places, terrible things happen, and I found myself wishing I could skip over these chapters and jump to what I felt sure had to be a happy ending. After all, the word survival is in the subtitle. 

Still, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, and as I continued on I realized that this is an excellent example of an author hurting a main character, making his life miserable to the point where I, the reader, felt I couldn't take it anymore. This is the essential ingredient that makes readers sympathize with characters. If nothing ever goes wrong or is hard for them, there's no conflict, and you find yourself wishing the character would get hit by a bus just so something interesting would happen.

For Louis, however, everything is hard, and there's more conflict than I cared for. And it all happened, which makes it all the more horrible. 

Last night, after a week of furious reading, I hit a wall. I refused to put the book down until he had either escaped from the camp, been rescued, or been killed. 

Which is why I ended up reading until almost 11:00 last night, huddled at the end of my bed (read: futon. I live a prized life), tears welling up in my eyes as I turned the pages as fast as I could. 

(At this point you may be wondering why, if I spent a week reading it every chance I got, I hadn't finished the book. Well, these days I don't have much downtime, so I hadn't gotten to read all that much. Also, the book is long, and there are a lot of WWII facts and dates that I wanted to at least attempt to remember, so I slowed down a little on those parts.)

I'm not one of those people who starts bawling at animal shelter commercials, and even though Jordan would tell you I've been unusually emotional lately, it's still rare for me to cry while reading a book. But the image of hundreds of POWs, being beaten and starved, brought tears to my eyes. It was a beautifully written, sickening image, and I was determined to keep going until the end...whatever it was.

Last night I didn't finish the book; there's still Part V to go. But, like my friend Audra--who first wrote a book review on Unbroken, which inspired my reading of it--I was pleasantly surprised that the book doesn't end at, you know, the end. Whether he escapes, is rescued, or dies, I won't say, but the book doesn't end there anyway, and I can't wait to go home, after a long day of reading, and keep reading. 

And that's saying something.
Lauren said...

That is awesome! And you're absolutely right: when you find something that you love, it's easy to keep on reading even after reading all day. :)

Anonymous said...

so so SO glad you're liking it! great review, even before you've finished the book! love it. and, as always, thanks for the link love.