Thursday, March 12, 2015

Scary Close by Donald Miller

I've read a lot of Donald Miller's books. I read Blue Like Jazz when it got popular, along with every other Christian College student at the time. I needed to read it. It met me where I was. It was really helpful. Miller is a wonderful writer, supremely talented. He's witty and funny and, as he says in Scary Close, he works incredibly hard to make his prose seem casual and effortless. I went back to read Blue Like Jazz a year or so ago. It's not where I am anymore. It doesn't resonate with me the same way it did, but it's still damn good writing. I read To Own a Dragon, his book on growing up without a father. I have a father - a pretty good one - Miller's book was still fantastic. I have never laughed harder or more often reading a book (and that's a good thing, despite the subject matter).

So when the BookLook program offered Miller's new book, I was pretty happy.* I was less happy when I saw it was only available for review as an ebook. I've never had an ebook before. I had to download a program on my laptop even to read one. I like his writing enough and wanted to read this book enough, I did all of that. I read the whole thing on my computer today. It was ok. What wasn't ok was that thirty pages in I wanted to share it with my wife and my therapist and a million other people who all struggle or walk with people through troubles in relationships and intimacy... but I couldn't, because it's an ebook.

Scary Close is real. It's honest on a level that one wouldn't expect from another human being - even one, like Miller, known for being honest. He uses personal stories from friends (semi-famous friends) and uses their real names (presumably with permission). In its very honesty, it is a scary challenge for the reader to embrace honesty.

It's a beautiful book. The writing is superb, as always, and, as the book discusses, it doesn't feel like Miller is writing "in character" or with the mask that subtly seems to fuel his other work. Halfway through I had to stop and look up "behind the scenes" info on Miller - since this book is so blatantly up front about life. I ran across this short interview that helps as a companion to the reader.

It's tough to say this book is "life changing" since I only finished reading it 27 minutes ago, but I saw enough of myself here - scratch that, I saw myself on nearly every page, in such honest and loving and difficult ways, I'm not sure there's any response but to use it in my life. I, and hopefully everyone reading this, am always desirous to improve my relationships. I've been married ten years now and it's often tough. Even when it's good and right and awesome it's tough. I think there are a lot of tools, stories, ideas, honesty, whatever, in Scary Close, to help anyone along that journey towards health and growth and wholeness (or as close as we're ever going to get to those things).

I found myself saying, "yeah, but" to a lot of stuff and Miller certainly does come off a little bit as the "Self-help" character the interview I liked to above halfheartedly claims him to be - at the same time, the familiarity I see and feel between the words on the page and the reality of my life rings far more true than the reputation of Donald Miller could ever hope to present. It's easy to resonate with something because it's presented well and comes from a familiar source; I found a deeper resonance here.

This may be largely emotion talking and I'll be more sane and less gushing in the morning. Who knows? I hope not. I do think it's a well written book with a courageous amount of honesty that could really help all of us think through the important relationships in our lives. I won't say "everyone should read it," because that comes off less than genuine. I do think, however, that absolutely everyone could benefit from reading it. Do with that what you will.

I'll even let you borrow it... oh wait, it's an ebook.

*I didn't put my typical disclaimer on this post mostly because it doesn't feel like a typical post. Yes, I was given this book in exchange for a review. No, the publisher did not influence my review in any way. At the same time it doesn't feel like every other review I've done. This was a profound and personal experience and one I didn't want to cheapen with the standard disclaimer.

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