Thank you again for all of your comments and for sharing so many links. It’s amazing that so many of you have had the privilege of hearing Louie speak in person.
Section IV hit me very hard. As soon as I started reading, I knew the worst wasn’t yet over for Louie. The power of Hillenbrand’s words brought his horrifying situation to life: “He missed the raft…His will to live, resilient through all of the trials on the raft, was beginning to fray.” Did anyone else react as I did: How could this be more traumatic and treacherous than the raft? And it was. So much worse.
“Without dignity, identity is erased.” It’s this brutal, dehumanizing treatment that has the most impact on Louie. While in captivity, Louie suffered like no one else. As if the physical torture, inhumane conditions, and starvation weren’t enough, Louie was also abused in a completely different way. His spirit and his will to live were crushed each and every day. Hillenbrand describes how the Japanese were fascinated by track. They were obsessed with the fact that they had an international running star in their captivity. At this point in the book, did anyone else think: Why does Louie’s running have to come back to haunt him now? How can this be happening? Not only do we see how a former Olympian makes a valuable propaganda tool in a time of war but also the perfect target for humiliation. The guards forced Louie to race them—and lose—or face beating after beating. Some of the guards were more ruthless and wretched than others, one in particular named Mutsuhiro Watanabe (also known as the Bird), who took great pleasure in crushing Louie until he had virtually nothing left.
During this time, it was especially heartbreaking to read about how Louie’s family was trying to keep the faith in a time of such uncertainty. When Louise stops cooking I thought: Louise, you can’t. Louie and Phil were still cooking your recipes on the raft. Louie will be home. And when Louise does learn that Louie would be home, her words moved me to tears: “September 9 is going to be Mother’s Day to me, because that’s the day I learned for sure my boy was coming home to stay.” And when Louie finally returns and begins sharing his experience, he says: “If I knew I had to go through those experiences again, I’d kill myself.” Did anyone else think: How did Louie have the resilience to survive? And how does he have the ability to retell the biggest nightmare of his life today?
Next week we’ll talk about Part V, the final section of our book. I also have some great news: Laura Hillenbrand will answer questions about the book for us! All you have to do is post them in the comments below, this week or next, and we’ll hear what the author has to say.