Thursday, September 29, 2011


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Historical writing is a difficult endeavor since it requires rigorous detail integration as well as a special kind of fact-based imagination and faith to bring the full rich, subtle texture of the people, places, and events into full bloom. Laura Hillenbrand's high-fidelity use of language to put the reader in the times could be as good as the David McCullough's, except she has this great power to evoke and connect personally; that served as a conduit between Louis Zamperini and me. She is able to bring specific moments in the life of this remarkable person into sharp poignancy as she recounts his experiences in intimate detail. For example, there's a beautiful passage where the Louis and another castaway were past starvation towards the latter-end of a 47 day journey at sea in a rubber raft where the winds calm and ocean turns to glass. It was in that moment that Louis was filled with such sublime joy and peace as he looked over the ocean and sky even though he had lost almost half his weight and was on the precipice of death. That moment resurfaced later in the tent of a Billy Graham revival as Louis was struggling with hatred and revenge, alcoholism and imminent divorce. This one moment of sublime peace was the miracle that leavened his soul to spring up into a miracle of forgiveness and redemption from the evil visited upon him by nature and by the evil intentions of his prison guards.

There are other harbingers and signals that give added meaning to the events in the book like the train whistle that Louis heard in the prison camp that reminded him of his childhood running away from home in a train, or the scars that accumulated on his body that told the story of his life that would reappear later in the book, or the role of running in Louis's life.

This is a book about physical, emotional, and spiritual endurance that pushed one man to his absolute limits, and ultimately about the real miraculous power of Christ's redeeming atonement to assuage the physical and spiritual evil/dischord that is part of the Human Condition.

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Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had this book on my 'to-read' list for a couple of years now. Initially, I was drawn to learn more about this man who was the illegitimate son of a bankrupt farmer living in the culturally rancid West Indies where more slaves were imported than the entire 13 American Colonies combined. To think about what Alexander Hamilton overcame to become the man he was is quite inspirational. He was an autodidact of the classical type who worked with indefatigable passion and expediency. He was courageous on the battlefield, and became the singular friend and confidant of General Washington in the revolution and during the 8 years of Washington’s presidency. In his time of service as the Secretary of Treasury he single-handedly designed and erected the largest branch of the federal government at the time which would, within a generation, place the United States on an economic footing that would rival that of the major world powers and eventually help propel the United States to become the manufacturer and bank of the world. Hamilton was also instrumental, with the help of Madison, in the establishment of our federalist system of government that endured the crucible of the War between the States and has since proven to be one of the most stable, free, and prosperous forms of government of a virtuous people ever created.

It was a bit painful reading about Hamilton’s affair with the unscrupulous Maria Reynolds, but it is also instructive to see how men of such talent and capacity fall from grace—as a caution to others. In the end, Hamilton was undone by a political foe who killed him in cold blood during a duel after Hamilton refused the first shot. It was an amazing life and a personality that was precisely situated to in a key role to midwife the creation of the greatest nation in history, and the last best hope of Man.

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