I know it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. I have been quite busy in the first couple months of working for myself. I suppose that is a great problem to have and I’ll be back to technical blogging soon, I promise. I’ve spoken for a PASS Virtual Chapter, I’m speaking At SQL Saturday 89 in Atlanta and the PASS Summit so I’ll be in your faces more. I’ll even tell you about the first quarter of independent consulting once that mark hits – to inspire you to go follow those dreams. The water is great… I wanted to write a quick book review, though while the sensation of just finishing it is fresh on my mind.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the book I just poured through. A friend who I’ve chatted with, given advice to and gotten advice from sent it to me out of the blue this summer and I am glad I got the chance to read it. It is a biography mainly. The memoirs of an amazing man named Louie Zamperini. It isn’t just about Louie, though. It is about those people he encountered in life. It is about his time as an Army Air Force bombardier on a B-24 fighting in World War II. It is a story about the Pacific theater in WWII. It is a story that zeroes in on the lives of allied prisoners of war in the Pacific during WWII.
Why Write The Review? After reading this book, I am convinced that everyone needs to read it. All the emotions you hear about when people suggest something happened. I laughed a long at some silly ways the POWs showed quiet (well maybe not so quiet…) disobedience to their cruel captors. I teared up in sorrow and sympathy at the plight of Louie’s friends. I teared up in sorrow as I felt just a hint of what the family members of those serving overseas felt. I grimaced in sympathy for the pain and agony these young – most younger than me, and I’m pretty young – prisoners of war were put through. I teared and got goose bumps of pure joy at the highs that were experienced by those in the book. Now I’m sitting here in some sort of awed reverence as I recount that this story was not fictional. That the stenches that were painted in the book, the pains felt, the heartache experienced and the trials and ups and downs of this story were all real. I sit here with my eyes still damp (As I told my wife about the last chapters and my excitement over what was happening, she said “you gonna start crying? I know how you get – there’s a towel right there…” as she went off to bed… I didn’t need the towel but if I wasn’t swallowing so hard I probably would have) still in some sort of shock and awe over what I just read.
That’s not it. I don’t want you to just read this book because you are going to go on a journey as you tear into the pages (I had a long list of things to do today but the last 300+ pages of the book told me I had other plans). I don’t want you to just read it because you are going to experience emotions (and I think it is good to experience emotions). In fact I’m not even 100% sure why I want you to read it but let me try -
1.) Yeah the emotions. If you didn’t already cherish and absolutely adore that generation that’s been labeled “The Greatest Generation” well then you need to read this book. The numbers that Hillenbrand reminds us of (The amount of bombers lost in training alone during WWII, the horrible odds for survival at sea at all – let alone how long Louie and part of his crew stayed alive -, the dismal survival rate for allied POWs in Japanese camps, the changed lives of all who had a stay in one, etc.) shook me to a renewed vigor of appreciation for this, well this dying generation. I enjoy seeing the occasional WWII veteran out and about but there are fewer and fewer to thank. Read this book and you’ll be looking forward to finding one the next time you are out.
2.) Humanity – I can’t describe what I mean here. Read the book and you’ll see. In this book you will see the deepest and darkest pits of what man is capable of. You’ll experience some sort of automatic recoil and shame at what human beings are capable of. Yet.. yet.. At the same time you’ll see the highest highs that we are capable of attaining. I can’t tell you why that is good but it is. The contrast between the very real things that were done to these POWs contrasted with the very real ways some stuck out their necks to show compassion. You’ll see how just a little compassion can do so much.
3.) The Power of Forgiveness – You’ll see that in a few places. I can’t say more on this one without robbing you of some of the journeys that await you within these pages.
I can keep going but I have work that I set out to do today that I have to finish before I can sleep. I don’t feel much like doing it right now, though. I feel like sitting here awhile and just staring straight ahead.
I haven’t read a book like this in a long time. It shook me to my core. This book is not a political book at all. The author does a great deal to not put herself into it. I don’t know where she stands on matters of politics or religion. She removed all of that and brought us the lives of the people in the book. To the point where you feel their fear as they run away from bombs on an airfield, to the point where you want to strangle a prison guard, to the point where you want to extend mercy to that same guard later. So please don’t take this next comment as a turn off from the book – she leaves today out of it. She leaves policy and politics out of it. I went into this book as one who saw some of the tactics used during our war on terror as justifiable, as not torture, as necessary. I don’t believe it was her intent at all in this book, but I put it down questioning that position. I find myself worried more about the innocent one who pays dearly than the guilty one who gets away. Don’t take that to mean I’ve gone soft on crime, I’m just tilted a bit more towards compassion now, I think.
Anyway.. enough rambling – If I had some sort of a two thumbs up system, this book would have 4. Summer is just about over here this side of the globe but you still have time to grab this book, add it to your summer reading list and spend a day being transported to a few new locations – a young boy’s house and neighborhood in the 20s; a high school track; the berlin olympics; the belly of a heavy; slow and cumbersome B-24D; a life raft hungry, thirsty and dying; and beyond.
If you do decide to read this book – don’t look up the characters first. They have extensive biographies throughout the web. I think if you let this book be your first introduction to them you’ll feel like you know them well.