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  1. This book was made into a movie called, not surprisingly, "The Blind Side." Sandra Bullock just won an Oscar for her work in the movie. I loved the movie and I thought Sandra Bullock was excellent. But back to the book. There are two threads in the book. The first is about American football and if you don't know much about it, you might get put off a little bit by all the football talk. I happen to love watching football, especially college ball (and ESPECIALLY the LSU Tigers), but I don't understand the intricacies of the game. You don't really need to understand the details, though. It all begins with the snapping of Joe Theisman's leg in a football game in the 1980s, which I remember distinctly, and the realization that quarterbacks need a lot of protection, particularly on their blind side (for a right-handed quarterback, that means the left side). So the player who provided that protection became very, very important once Joe Theisman showed how vulnerable a quarterback could be. Incidentally, the movie starts with several showings of that leg break. I recognized the footage as soon as it came up and closed my eyes and put my hands over my ears. My daughter kept asking why and then said, "Oh" when the break occurred. It's really quite gruesome. The second thread is the story of Michael Oher, who ended up being exactly the kind of football player needed to guard the quarterback's blind side. He was one of 13 children of a crack-addicted mother. She is never abusive, but she is unbelievably and shockingly neglectful. As is everyone else in his life, including the foster care system. He never goes to school, he and a brother just sort of hole up in an abandoned apartment, and he more or less wanders around, unsupervised, but unbothered. Through a series of unlikely events culminating in a football coach who sees his potential very clearly, Michael ends up at a lily-white Christian school in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee. But he's uncared for and unschooled and really just sort of drifting around in a daze. Many of the teachers are put out that they have to deal with him, but one of them becomes his cheerleader. And then he meets Leigh Anne Tuohy, who has two children at the school. She takes him in and becomes his biggest supporter and cheerleader. And he responds in a big way, making up (with a lot of tutoring) for as much lost time educationally as possible and embracing all of the opportunities this family gives him, including the opportunity to feel loved and cared for. I have always been interested in why some people are able to overcome such terrible beginnings and others cannot. It is clear that his mother never abused her children, although at some point the author says something like (I couldn't find the quote), "Michael Oher's mother seemed to be put on this earth to show how little a mother could care for her children and still retain their affection." So he was neglected, but not abused. He also had very few personal connections with those around him. He was just there. He didn't have a girlfriend or children or a police record, which made it easier for him to leave when he got the chance. But his most important quality was that he didn't hold a grudge and he wasn't angry. So he never hung on to that misery and was psychologically ready to leave when the time came. The other thing he had was a really fiercly protective foster mother (I think they ended up adopting him) in Leigh Anne Tuohey. She is absolutely a mama bear in the best sense of the word. And while she was the leader, the whole family was on board--her husband and both children loved him. His new sister was in the same grade and they went to college together. The whole family just seems to have huge hearts. I read a "Sports Illustrated" article about him and discovered that there are 3 other NFL players with very similar stories. In each case, a certain number of people are suspicious that the real reason the families take these young men in is so that they can play football for their college team (like if we took someone in so he could play football for LSU). I frankly don't see it with the Tuoheys, but I don't know about the other families. But that pattern is a whole different interesting thing to contemplate. I really enjoyed this book. When we saw the movie (which was before I read the book), I was a little squeamish about the "white family rescuing black kid" story, but the movie and the book make it so clear that the person who gets most of the credit is Michael Oher himself that I got over it. And the book was gripping; I couldn't wait to get back to it in the evenings and on the weekends. Michael Lewis is a good writer and the story is compelling. I realize this is mostly a UK website and so American football might seem really foreign and hard to get into, but if you can manage it, I think you would enjoy the book.
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