Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken (2014) by Laura Hillenbrand tells the remarkable story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini.  Louis was made to run by his brother Pete, who saw the boy had talent but realized that it would also keep him out of trouble.  He eventually went on to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he shook Hitler's hand. When WWII rolled around he signed on to be a gunner on a plane.  He was sent to the Pacific where his plane was shot down and he was captured by the Japanese.  Being a POW with an Olympic medal made him a target for the cruelty of the Japanese guards.  He would be made to run races, even in his emaciated state, and beaten if he won.  One particularly cruel guard, known as 'the bird', would search him out daily for a beating.  The bird's cruel and sadistic tendencies made him especially feared.  When a fellow guard tried to intervene for the prisoners, the bird beat him up too.  Louis was privy to a blinding flash of light that he eventually came to realize was the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki.  He knew something was happening when a peasant he talked to through the fence kept saying, "one plane, one bomb, one city -gone."  After the war, Louis went on to suffer debilitating nightmares, where he saw the bird coming to beat him up.  He woke up one night to realize he was strangling his pregnant wife.  His hatred and bitterness grew, along with his alcoholism and violence. One night he went with his wife to hear the evangelist Billy Graham.  Louis became a Christian and that night he went home and threw all his liquor down the drain as well as his cigarettes.  He never dreamed about the bird again and he eventually came to forgive his captors.  Years later he would go to Japan to the prison where a lot of his captors were held.  He wanted to test his faith and see what would happen.  As he looked and recognized many of his captors, his heart began to overflow with compassion and he ran to the prisoners with outstretched hands and a beaming face.