This November, nearly 10 years after the release of dark horse bestseller (sorry) Seabiscuit, Random House is publishing Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken. It's the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who endured incredible hardships during World War II.
Hillenbrand came up with the idea during her research for Seabiscuit. As she says in the press release, "While studying a newspaper clipping about the racehorse, I happened to turn to the back of the page, where an article on Zamperini caught my eye. I began to read, and was immediately enthralled. I jotted Zamperini's name down in my Seabiscuit papers. After finishing my book, I wrote Louie a letter. He wrote back to tell me of his youthful days as a runner, holding the inspiring image of Seabiscuit in his mind as he ran. With every exchange, I was drawn more deeply into his story and its phenomenally abundant narrative possibilities." Unbroken was written with the full participation of Zamperini, who is now 93—though he told his own story with help of a co-writer in 2003's Devil at My Heels.
Having struggled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 25 years, Hillenbrand knows something about coping with adversity. Though she married her longtime fiancé in 2007, an NPR interview from October 2009 reports that "Her symptoms, including pain and vertigo, have been so severe that she's only left her house twice in the last two years." Book tours are out of the question and sometimes she is too ill even to write. Perhaps she identified with Zamperini for the same reason the Seabiscuit story spoke to her:
I identified in a very deep way with the individuals I was writing about because the theme that runs through this story is of extraordinary hardship and the will to overcome it. That is the fundamental struggle of my life, trying to get over this extremely devastating physical condition. There are times when I think, "I can't stand this any more." But you find a way to do it.
Are you looking forward to the release of Unbroken?