Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


100 Books While 40: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Book: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Published: 2014

How many times can someone starve? I am just wondering, because Louis Zamporini starts off his trip to the Japanese POW camp at less than one hundred pounds. And yet he loses another 20 pounds at least 5 or 6 times before is rescue. By my calculation Zamporini, while there are many remarkable things about the man, shockingly survived a weight of zero pounds.

Added to his miraculous weight loss, he also survived brushes with death. He barely survived it when his first plane was shot up. He barely survived when the plane nearly crashed due to holes shot through the gas tank. He barely survived when they crash landed on the deck of a air craft carrier. He barely survived when his next plan was shot down. He released his ankle in the wreckage nearly missing drowning. In his barely conscience haze after surfacing he managed to swim after and capture two life boats. He barely survived dehydration. He barely survived starvation. He barely survived insanity while lost at see. He barely survived being shot at by a Japanese plane. He barely survived circling sharks. He barely survived circling sharks attacking simultaneously with a different Japanese plane. He barely survived drowning or becoming shark food when the life rafts where shot through with bullets.  We aren’t even into the Japanese prison camp yet.

When I finally put the book down, I noticed that my empathy account was overdrawn by decades. The last twenty pages giddily wrap up the book with Louis’s conversion to Christianity, as though this is some remedy for the last 980 pages of smothering misery. It was not.

The unabridged version of this book could be improved with a thesaurus. Really, it could have used more imaginative prose. Really really, the unabridged version could have not existed at all. Or maybe someone with less talent for turning a fascinating story and an honorable man into a book painful to slog through should have authored it.

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100 Books by 40: GOOD NIGHT, MR TOM

Picking up this book was a delightful break from the tedium that was reading The Count of Monte Cristo. The book is a young adult title about a boy that was evacuated from London during World War II. While the writing wasn’t challenging to read, the novel covered some heavy topics.

The boy, Willie, left an abusive mother and taken in by a man that had cut himself off from others after the death of his wife and young child. The story centers around the transformation of the boy and the man. They are wounded souls who find healing in each other’s company.

My facebook feed brings many things to my attention, but I would say the vast majority highlight the negative power that we have to belittle and harm both those around us and ourselves. It’s refreshing to contemplate the best that we can be versus the worst. On the rare occasion that someone shares something positive or beautiful, I feel relieved, but those things fail to over-power the negative emotions that I am often left with.

I know people have either left their facebook accounts or blocked certain posts from turning up in their feed, and I get that. There’s just some stuff that doesn’t add value to your life and only brings up negative emotions. There are moments were we can be constructively challenged, but social media is rarely the space for it.

I’ve already limited my consumption of certain types of news media for the reason stated above. Twenty-four hours news stations were among the first things to get winnowed out of my information diet. I’m considering that facebook might get a similar treatment. I am going to pare back my facebook browsing for a while, and see how that goes.

Mister Tom is a nice, easy read. The characters are charming. The setting reminds me how little Americans have been touched by war since the Civil War. The towns people in the book all pitch in to help with the war effort. Much like Americans accepted rationing and planted victory gardens to support WWII, people accepted a certain level of shared sacrifice for the greater good. We aren’t so far from that time to make it impossible for our culture to value self sacrifice again. In fact, I am sure that millions of people in their own small way are still doing this today. There’s a big world out there full of people who are doing their best, and social media isn’t a great lens to take a look at it.