Tuesday, December 31, 2013

ARC Book Review: "Open Your Eyes: 10 Uncommon Lessons To Discover a Happier Life" by Jake Olson

Happy New Years Eve everyone! I hope that you are cuddled up warm in your jammies thinking about your NYE plans, but I bet some of you are at your (ghost town) of a workplace like me! The book that we are talking about was sent to me for review from the author's publishing team. I thought that it was a good inspirational book to end the year on. (Here I will also reiterate my promise that I will never accept a book that I don't think is a good fit for the blog). The book is released today! Happy New Years my friends. Be safe have fun!


Jake Olson was 8 months old when he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma is a rapidly developing eye cancer. It's mainly in children, but is rare, only 3% of cancer diagnosed in children is retinoblastoma. His left eye was removed at 10 months old, but doctors were able to preserve his sight it in his right eye, though they knew that it wouldn't last forever. The cancer returned in 2009, when Jake was 12 years old and he knew that he would end up losing his sight. ( I know I told you that this book was inspirational but we need to get through the sad stuff first.)

Knowing that he had limited time with sight left Jake set out to see everything that he could. His parents decorated their house in early November so he could experience the Christmas lights once more. He golfed the Pebble Beach golf course. He played in his team's football games. However one of the greatest experiences for Jake involves the USC football program. His dad went to USC so they were big Trojan fans to begin with, Jake especially. When he finds out that he is going to lose his sight he wishes that he could get up close and personal with the Trojans football team. When the coach at the time, Pete Carroll hears Jake's story he makes it happen. Not only is he there for a game, he's there for team meetings, meal times, and practices. He really bonds with all the players and the coaches. Pete Carroll even writes one of the forwards for the book. Jake and some of the team members still seem to be quite close! ESPN caught wind of this story they filmed some of his experiences. Jake even got some tv time with Lee Corso on an episode of Game Day and made better picks than the coach! (If you're like me, and this name sounds only vaguely familiar let me assist you: Corso is the kind of loud one who does the stuff with the mascot's heads. I also think he kind of looks like Mel Brooks)

Even know that he is blind, Jake is an active golfer. He even golfs on his school team and his dream is to be the first blind golfer on the PGA tour. I think even I would enjoy watching golf if he was involved (more Jake, less Tiger Woods, that's what I'd need to watch golf. But I digress).

The first 25-30 pages are about Jake's background and his experiences (I was reading the ARC, so it might be different in the final published book) but the rest of the book is more of a reflection on how his faith has helped sustain him, how he keeps a good attitude, and how he doesn't let his lack of sight keep him from leaving a full and joyous life.He (and his whole family) lean heavily on their faith to get them through these different struggles. Though some of the advice that he offers is great no matter who you are, like "It's not what happens to us; it's what we do with what happens to us that matters". Another "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass". I love that one. So often we expect huge mountain moving things to make what we want come true, but it's the little shuffles in the right directions that get us to where we go.

Others who have faced difficulties are also featured in this book. A man named Art Berg was made a quadriplegic in a terrible car accident. Doctors told him that he would need to be taken care of for the rest of his life, that he probably wouldn't have kids, drive a car, or work again. 12 years after the accident Art had 2 children with his wife, could drive a car, feed himself, was a motivational speaker and was very self-sufficient.Beck Weathers lost his sight while he was climbing Mount Everest and while he waited for his eyesight to return he was left for dead twice. He managed to stumble into camp on his own, though he would eventually lose both hands to frostbite.

I like that the book had little "insights" from Jake, his parents, and other people who could add something to his story. I think my favorite chapter of the book was "Lemons and Molehills". Who doesn't need a reminder that you need to keep problems in perspective and that "this too shall pass?" This would have been a great Christmas gift for the hard to shop for person in your life, but keep it in mind for birthdays or other occasions.(Though maybe not a great gift for the Notre Dame fan in your life, if they are particularly rabid). The book is very conversational, and is a good casual read while still having a message worth hearing.

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