If you enjoy real life stories about individuals improving themselves against great odds then you’ll love this book.
Mr. Lewis tells the story of a young African-American boy, Michael Oher (pronounced “oar”), born in the worst section of Memphis, TN into one of its most dysfunctional homes as he makes the gargantuan leap from the arm-locking embrace of disadvantage to celebrity. The book also gives witness to the fact that these transformations don’t happen easily. It takes the will power, resolve, love, interest and effort of every possible person you can imagine and some good fortune too.
Born to a drug-addicted mother, Michael bounces in and out of school and various hideouts in an attempt to avoid foster care, which was more oppressive than the gang infested housing development he managed to surivive, for the better part of his first sixteen years of his life.
But, even though he spends little time in school he isn’t inactive. He uses every opportunity to improve his basketball skills, in pursuit of becoming the next Michael Jordon, and in the process develops natural abilities that eventually make him a highly sought after prospect to play left tackle for division 1A college football and eventually the NFL.
Not everyone, however, is on his side. Not every obstacle is overcome easily.
With very little education and even less athletic experience at the high school level Michael was hesitantly accepted at Briarcrest Christian School in his sophomore year with the stern ruling that he could not play sports of any kind until his grades were up. A feat no one really expected to happen.
Through the hard work of many, including Michael, and especially the support and advocacy of the Tuohy family, who eventually adopted him, he managed to claw his way into football fame. At every level Michael shows himself to be an outstanding athlete who just needed nurturing from a few caring individuals. He got all that and more.
This was not just another soppy, “feel good” story. No rules were broken or short cuts allowed. Michael managed to get academically qualified in what must be a record breaking three years, starting virtually at zero, and he was last reported as doing well. You could say the story is still unfolding.
The book was well written (an easy read to follow) and the writer did his homework. He interviewed every body. His keen sense for detail also enables us to make some important observations.
- That the church school movement, which on paper is a good thing, seems more intent these days on doing for Christian America what country clubs do for wealthy America. In this one instance, however, and against their “better judgment” real good was accomplished.
- That the Social Welfare system is only marginally better than ghetto life if that. It keeps the employees of the system busy, the conscience of everyone else appeased and provides opportunities for the less scrupulous to take unfair advantage of the underprivileged. It mostly embitters those it claims to help.
- That the NFL requires as much brain as brawn and the consistent winners must be deep thinkers with lots of character. The writer does a brilliant job of weaving a bit of NFL strategy development into the plot and in the process dispels entrenched ideas about the relative importance of certain positions. Here again, he did his homework, enough to convince those who are generally well informed. For the arm chair enthusiast he draws attention to positions normally thought mundane, e.g., left tackle, which protects the quarterback’s blind side (hence the title). Even non-enthusiasts can gain a respect for the game.
- That sporting programs can catalyze personal development in dramatic ways and the system, though at times faulty, does work. Open minded cynics will find the book compelling.
The human interest side of the story is so rich it is no surprise they have made a movie from it. Don’t miss this read! You can get it here and it really isn’t that expensive.