Book Review: In a Heartbeat

Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving
Sean & Leigh Anne Tuohy with Sally Jenkins
Published by Henry Holt & Co.

First came the best-selling book, then the Oscar-nominated movie; The Blind Side recounts Michael Oher’s journey from wandering the streets of Memphis, Tennessee, to standing on the Baltimore Ravens’ sideline.  If you’re familiar with the story, then you already know how Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy almost drove past Michael without stopping that cold November morning.  But that is only half of this remarkable story.  “Compared to our real lives…the book and movie were just sketches,” Leigh Anne writes in the Tuohy’s new book with Sally Jenkins, In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving.

In a Heartbeat reveals more personal details from the lives of Sean and Leigh Anne: their family histories, childhoods, how they met and married, and how loving Michael completely changed their lives.  Also featured are Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, and the three Tuohy children, who offer their personal reflections on the events behind the story.  The Tuohys reveal some of the struggles associated with adoption, transracial adoption specifically.  Another interesting inclusion is the Tuohys’ development of their philosophy of giving and how they decided to make generosity a way of life.  The Tuohys call it the “Popcorn Theory,” and it’s rather simple: “You can’t help everyone.  But you can try to help the hot ones who pop right up in front of your face.”

The Tuohys describe themselves as born-again Christians and find their reasons for giving in the Bible; however, they intentionally separate their philanthropy from the gospel.  “Neither of us talked very openly about our faith, because we didn’t want to offend or alienate or preach at people.”   In a Heartbeat is filled with personal stories about what happens when you give money and time to the worthy causes that pop up: children are educated, teenagers graduate from high school and move out of “the projects,” athletic programs are born, or someone gets to take the overseas trip of a lifetime.  All are good outcomes.  But this isn’t a book about giving sacrificially or living missionally for the sake of spreading the gospel.

Their message is simple: give because God has blessed you, and you will be blessed.  Leigh Anne writes, “If there is one meaning we’d like you to take from our story, it’s this: the person you just walked past is the one who could change your life.  So, every once in a while, stop and turn around.  Find out about that person.”  The Tuohy’s challenge is to step out of your comfort zone and do something good for someone else.

That said, I cannot highly recommend this book as it left a rather awful Tuohy after-taste.  The movie paints Leigh Anne in a much more favorable light than her own writing.  If you enjoyed the movie (and I did), then you may not want to read this memoir.

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