The Bookshelf: Laura Hillenbrand

hillenbrandI am jealous of everyone who lives in a country with a movie theater. I don’t really like movies but this is one I want to see in the theater. Alas. Unbroken will remain in book form only for me, at least for the foreseeable future. I’m mostly okay with that. Movies almost always ruin the book. But still. When you love a book as much as I love Unbroken, you want to see the movie.

In place of watching the movie, I’ve been reading interviews with and profiles of the author, Laura Hillenbrand. And I’m even more amazed by what she has managed to do with both Unbroken and with Seabiscuit.

Laura suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and it is so serious she rarely leaves her house. She sometimes never leaves her room or her bed. She suffers debilitating dizzy spells and struggles to both read and type. She conducted much of her research for both these books via phone calls, emails, and people visiting her. For Unbroken, one man brought a World War II Norden bombsight and set it up in her kitchen so she could see how planes viewed their targets.

Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic sprinter-turned World War II fighter. His plane goes down over the Pacific and he miraculously survives on a life raft only to come to shore on a Japanese-controlled island. He is interred as a POW and endures unimaginable suffering. One aspect I enjoyed the most about this book was that Hillenbrand doesn’t end the story when Zamperini is released. She follows him and his fellow POWs back to the United States and chronicles the devastating aftershocks of what they experienced. But she still doesn’t end the story there. She takes the reader to the depths of human misery and brokenness and then, through Zamperini, she shines light on hope and redemption.

Seabiscuit was a race horse, tearing up tracks and getting injured and winning hearts, in the 1930s. An underdog champion, ridden by an underdog jockey, owned by an underdog businessman, trained by an underdog coach. It is an epic story of America and captures our love for the underdog. But the book doesn’t capitalize on the American sense of individualism. The way these men and women work together to overcome impossible odds is by doing together, drawing on the strengths of the others and remaining faithful when weaker ties would have shattered. In the middle of the Depression, when people needed something to cheer for, these unlikely heroes emerge and steal the heart of a nation.

What I’m reading this week:

Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee. How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. Christian and Muslim women came together in Liberia to end a brutal conflict.


Brain Child Magazine Am rereading an older teen issue, thinking about my own teens. One article talked about the status update on Facebook and when she first saw her daughter change it. Another is about the use of ADHD pills by non-ADHD diagnosed teens to use for studying enhancements. Excellent fiction pieces. Love it all.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, second in the Delirium series (confession, I am super-skimming to keep up with my daughter). The premise is that love is a disease and so at age 18 everyone gets ‘cured.’ Except, big surprise, the main character falls in love pre-cure and must find a way to both love and live. *for parents: there are swear words

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin. Ashamed to say it has taken me this long to read this book but I’m so glad I finally started. Seems like an especially fitting week and time in our nation’s history.



Other Hillenbrand fans out there? What did you think of the movie? What are you reading this week?