Book Review: UNBROKEN: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

What a ride!

This is a brief account of how the book affected and touched me, more than a ‘review’. This is my first book ever on the World War II, a topic I’ve always fought shy of. Deep down, I have always evaded having to live the vulnerability, suffering and horror that war brings upon people. But the fear of the idea of something is much different from and more terrifying than what it really is. This was true for me having read the book.

A gripping tale of a man and his determination, survival and optimism. I was astonished to see the human capacity to inflict cruelty and so also the human potential for endurance- and none of which was fiction! Reading though the book, I lived the life of a POW (Prisoner of War) in extreme suffering and continual dread, with no hope day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. Then Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings happen. It’s then that I saw the significance of it and the other side of how that finally put an end to the war! The jubilation of American victory to end the six years of misery and hardship for the whole world, put me in tearful awe. I empathized more than ever with the war veterans, and how the war experiences change them for good, and their difficulties in settling back to a ‘normal’ civilian life (if they return alive, without losing a limb or so)! It’s not just the physical, but the mental trying, that leaves the lifelong scars. And each one has to find his way out, and live amongst those who have no idea of what all their souls have endured!

Also, it gives us a reality check on our lives which is no less than kings and queens, so we better stop complaining for whatever it is!

For those who are deciding still, whether or not to read the book, this is what I have to say: it’s great storytelling, thrilling, gripping and awe inspiring. Like me, you wouldn’t leave it, if you get past the first chapter!

Just let go…

When I look back at the years gone by, I feel that I had an eventful life. I always had a certain structure in mind that I thought my life would fit into, or will look like. But things that happened to me threw me off my premeditated ideal. I didn’t know to what I should attribute it all to: the choices that I had to make (there’s such an irony in the statement) which would turn out to be ‘wrong’ in time to come, or to ‘fate’. The latter approach, I realized, seemed comforting as it salvages you from the never ending ‘analysis – paralysis’ loop and you concede to the fact that things happen the way they have to irrespective of the choices we make.

None of the above theories could convince me deep down, until a few years back, when I came across this interesting book that caused a paradigm shift in me. Illusions by Richard Bach has been one of the best books I have read so far. It spoke to my soul, and when I most needed it. At the beginning, there is this parable that is very profound which is reproduced below:

“Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all — young and old, rich and poor, good and evil — the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self. Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current was what each had learned from birth.

But one creature said at last, “I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.” The other creatures laughed and said, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed against the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!” But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Illusions by Richard Bach
Illusions by Richard Bach

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more. And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, “See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the messiah, come to save us all!” And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”

But they cried the more, “Savior!” all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a savior.”

The current, the flow probably knows where it is going, if we don’t. That’s so reassuring. This philosophy could be likened to the higher concept of being “sahaj” found in the Hindu philosophy, and in Sikhism. So is it reflected in the teachings of great saints known to be associated with various religions. Spiritual teachings and the philosophy therein does offer answers to problems, difficult life situations and ambiguity life puts us into. On an individual level, I did find solace in these teachings and this theory.