I've always found history interesting, but I am more fascinated by the people involved and their personal stories than stories of political power and shifting allegiances. Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of Louie Zamperini, son of an Italian immigrant, a precocious and difficult child, an Olympic runner, and an Army Air Force bombardier in World War II. When Louie's plane crashes into the ocean during WWII, it marks the beginning of an astounding struggle for survival that was hard to read but impossible to stop reading about. Because Hillenbrand took the time to ground all of the main players in this novel, I really cared what happened to them. When I finally saw a break coming for Louie, I was so relieved, only to find him falling into even worse circumstances. Some of it is really hard to believe. I can imagine movie producers nixing this story as too far fetched.
Hillenbrand does not focus on the war or the politics of it, but she brings in enough detail to coherently explain how it all affects Zamperini's life. The details about the pacific bombers in the War were astounding. Men were dying all over the place: over the ocean, in training, simply disappearing. The dangers he faced, even before crashing were difficult to imagine. I don't want to go into too much detail because I really think it's better if you don't know everything, but I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone. It made me feel grateful for many of the simple things I take for granted every day.
Without taking away from my recommendation, I did feel Louie's "redemption" (as described in the title) occurred rather quickly and without explanation. My gut thinks it couldn't have been that fast and simple. However, that is a small gripe in a book that was otherwise unforgettable.