Wow, I can’t believe our story has finally come to an end. I think that we all pretty much agree that Hillenbrand has told a gripping tale of survival and endurance. We witnessed what it really means to embrace the power of faith, forgiveness, and redemption. We met a modern-day hero.
When Part V opens, Louie returns to his parents’ home after being away for over three years. He says: “This, this little home…was worth all of it.” Louie is finally back home where he belongs, with his family; he’s in his own safe haven.
And then we see the torment, the despair, the “suffocating anxiety,” that haunts Louie day after day, night after night. Treacherous nightmares, binge drinking, and despair take over his life. Hillenbrand brings us shocking statistics: One study reveals that 85 percent of former Pacific POWs suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Another study: More than a quarter of former Pacific POWs were diagnosed with alcoholism. These numbers are upsetting to read, difficult to accept, and heartbreaking to comprehend.
Nothing seems to save Louie. Not love: He falls hard for Cynthia Applewhite and proposes after knowing her for just a mere two weeks. Not running: He wasn’t able to connect with the thing that he’d once relied on for peace and therapy. Louie claims, “[I]t felt forced.”
It’s so incredibly hard to watch Louie unravel after enduring and surviving. As I anxiously read that last section, I silently cheered him on and hoped he’d find solace in something—or through someone. Enter Billy Graham.
Louis basically begrudgingly attends one of Graham’s sermons at Cynthia’s coaxing. And it changes his life. He is inspired to forgive and finds peace with the past as he looks positively toward the future. Graham offers Louie the spiritual guidance he needs to take back his life. Was anyone else amazed by Louie’s vivid transformation? Did anyone feel a sense of relief watching Louie rise from the terrors that weighed him down and nearly destroyed him? Here’s what I keep thinking about: What is it that enables someone to endure such trials and emerge unbroken? How did you feel about the ending of the book?
I want to thank everyone for reading along with me this month and for sharing so many of your insights on Louie and his experiences.
Remember: last call for questions! Laura Hillenbrand will answer questions about the book for us! All you have to do is post them in the comments below by end of day next Friday, October 7, and we’ll hear what the author has to say.