“No good deed goes unpunished”;a quote variously attributed to Oscar Wilde, Andrew Mellon, Dorothy Parker, and Clare Booth Luce but also a proverb applied to the lives of Michael Oher and Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy as they intersected in Memphis, Tennessee. Michael Lewis weaves a complex tale in The Blind Side of the melding of lives as the boy from one side of town begins life anew as a part of a family of rich Evangelicals from the opposite side. Michael Oher is a destitute African-American boy, one among thirteen children born to a crack addicted mother who grows up knowing little pertinent information about himself and whose life is on a trajectory to nowhere. Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy are rich (though tenuously at times), white, Christians living at the other end of town who are deeply involved with their children and the private Christian academy at which they are educated. Michael serendipitously becomes involved with the Touhy’s through the nexus of Briarcrest as he is given an opportunity to be educated there. What follows is the story of Michael becoming integrated into the Tuohy’s family, raising the angle of his trajectory considerably.
If this were the whole of the tale one might be tempted to push the book back onto the shelf and continue scanning but Lewis is not simply telling this family’s history. Paralleling the drama of Michael and the Touhys is the story of the rise of the left tackle in the NFL, the one who guards the quarterback’s blind side. It is a position charged with stopping the oncoming linebacker who is bent on the destruction of the team’s offensive core, the quarterback. Because of the speed and agility of the linebackers in professional football, the position requires a rare combination of size, speed, nimbleness of feet, reach and hand size and a very specific center of gravity. Rare qualities that genetics and development would visit upon Michael Oher.
These intertwining stories make for an engaging book. Lewis’s quality of writing satisfies, whether the reader is primarily interested in the human interest tale or the details of an increasingly critical component of the game of football. Though I have little interest in football, the personalities and details as painted by Lewis’s prose kept me attentive to seeing their development in Michael as the story unfolded. Viewing the domestic saga from a set distance also serves the reader well as the motivation of the Tuohy’s to take in Michael and begin the transformation of his life is questioned.
As Michael’s unique qualities are noticed by those outside of the Memphis football world the inevitable issue of money surfaces and it is these future riches that are used to taint the purity of the Tuohy’s charity. They are accused of salvaging Michael for their own enrichment, an accusation that drives Sean and Leigh Anne into action. The reader is cheered and then pummeled by the ups and downs of the ongoing accusation and acquittal battle in which the Tuohy’s and Michael must engage.
Lewis does not shy away from the difficulty of whipping our emotions about with this book. The reader is led to loathe those who would take advantage of Michael, feel compassion for Michael himself, cheer the Tuohy’s and their 99% pure charity, and perhaps most subtly, fear the oncoming linebacker and the gunshot crack of bone beneath a pile of huge, helmeted men. The Blind Side satisfies on all levels.
You might also enjoy The Parable of Michael and the Briarcrest Saints