“What the Zamperinis were experiencing wasn’t denial, and it wasn’t hope. It was belief. Louise, Anthony, Pete, and Virginia still sensed Louie’s presence; they could still feel him. Their distress came not from grief but from the certainty that Louie was out there in trouble and they couldn’t reach him.”
This passage comes from Chapter Twenty-one, a chapter that focuses on the thoughts and actions of Louie’s family members back home in California. At the point in the story, Louie has been declared dead by the War Department. Despite this, Louie’s family members do not believe that Louie is dead. This passage explains how the Zamperinis could possibly believe that Louie is alive when evidence and logic would suggest that he did not survive the crash of Green Hornet. The Zamperinis sensed, and believed, something that could not be explained via traditional means of knowing.
This passage reflects the amazingly strong bonds among the members of the Zamperini family. The members were woven together in devotion to one another. This passage also suggests the spiritual bonds among any people who know and love each other. The passage expresses belief that people can know things about their loved ones without physical presence and without communication. The Zamperinis’ collective sixth sense, of course, is accurate. The reader has access to information they do not, so although their belief seems irrational to people around them, the reader knows that they have insight.
Hillenbrand uses a narrative structure that moves back and forth between Louie’s experiences and those at home, in America. The shifts away from the main plot, focused on Louie’s survival, add to her storytelling and to the reader’s understanding of events. This structure echoes that of The Odyssey, the Classical hero story in which a war hero suffers terribly as he endures to return home to his family. In that story, the narration moves between Odysseus’s journey and the events at home, where his wife Penelope and son Telemachus wait for him. As in Homer’s narrative, this passage shows how families suffered through the war. While they were not physically in the war with Louie, the family members were emotionally with him, and in their imaginations and fears they suffered with him.