I have been reading Donald Miller books for many years, so I was excited to pick up his newest book "Scary Close".
The book jacket reads:
New York Times bestselling memoirist Donald Miller takes readers on his yearlong journey to learn to abandon performance-based relationships and find real intimacy.
When fling after fling led to a rich fantasy life, lots of drama, and a long series of heartaches, Donald Miller decided he'd had enough. There must be a better way to soothe loneliness without jumping on a roller coaster, to feel affirmation without putting on a show, to find true love. It wasn't just about finding the right girl, though that helped. Once he found her, he had to know what to do-or who to be. A manipulative control freak? A successful workaholic? His usual methods had drawbacks. But the alternatives were not just hard to do; they were hard to imagine.
From the author of Blue Like Jazz comes a story about finding the keys to a healthy relationship and discovering they are also the keys to a healthy family, a healthy career, and a healthy mind. And it all feels like a conversation with the best kind of friend: smart, funny, true, important. Scary Close is Donald Miller at his best.Having read all of his books, I had noticed in recent years a change in his voice. If you haven't been in my Language Arts class, a simplified definition of "voice" is the individual writing style of an author [if you have been in my class, I'm banking on you remembering that forever]. Basically, just like different friends of yours have different personalities, writers have different voices. And just like your friends, those personalities/voices can grow and change over time. I had noticed a certain "maturing" in Miller's voice, and I felt like this book explained the behind the scenes to the growth I was hearing in that changed voice.
First, let me say this much: I liked the book. It was easy to read and digest. However, it wasn't my favorite Miller book and I think that there are a couple of reasons for this:
/ Intimacy in relationships is not something I struggle with all the time. I have always been a pretty vulnerable and open person from the get-go in my relationships, so I couldn't relate to a lot of his struggles personally. However, they did offer insight into how some of my friends or family may interact with me, and also spoke truth into some of my relationships that may be stalling or dying. And it is sound advice. And Miller's own transparency in sharing his struggles is inspiring.
/ The overarching story of this book is not just how he learned to be better at relationships, but kind of the reason behind why he was wanting to be better. He liked a girl, they got engaged, and then they got married. And through that relationship he learned he was flawed deeply and that grace is huge. Amen. I hear him on that point, but I'm not in the thick of that part of my marriage. Not that we don't still have a lot to learn, we're just not right on the cusp like he is in this story. And I think that gave me a little distance from the book.
/Also, I loved "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" so much and related to it a lot. I think I'm always more critical of the next book after I've enjoyed one so much [Except I won't be for Harper Lee. ;)]
I do feel like Miller left out a crucial step when he talked about his "healing" in his own relationships and how he grew emotionally-- Christ. Miller is what I would call a "subtle" Christian author, but I felt like sharing how his faith guided him in this particular time would have been beneficial. It clearly played a role, it just isn't very clear. I do, however, love when I'm reading a Miller book, that I can just be cruising along and then BAM! out of nowhere there is some line or phrase that just totally blindsides me. There were a lot of those in this book. Here are a few things that jumped out at me, that may give you a taste for the book:
/ But human love isn't conditional. No love is conditional. If love is conditional, it's just some sort of manipulation masquerading as love. 
/ God doesn't give us crying, pooping children because he wants to advance our careers. He gives them to us for the same reason he confused language at the Tower of Babel, to create chaos and deter us from investing too much energy in the gluttonous idols of self-absorption. 
/ I believe God is a fan of people connecting and I think the enemy of God is a fan of people breaking off into paranoid tribes. 
/ [Relationships are] going somewhere…all relationships are living and alive and moving and becoming something. 
/ I think we can fall into reactionary patterns in relationships rather than understanding they're things we build and nurture and grow. 
/...love was a decision, that it was as much something you made happen as it was something that happened to you. [ 224]
This book makes me want to love better and be open and honest and raw and real in all of my relationships. Even though he speaks a lot about romantic/marriage relationships, there is a lot to glean even if you aren't in that stage of life. If you feel like you want to be better at being honest with yourself and others, and if you want the relationships in your life- romantic, work, platonic, parent/child- to go beyond the surface, then pick up a copy of this book [or ask to borrow mine :)].
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and BookLook Bloggers, but all opinions are my own.