Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review of Donald Miller's "Scary Close"

As much as I like reading self-help and how-to, the most impactful life lessons seem to come from watching those I admire in their everyday moments or hearing their stories over a cup of tea. I think this is why I felt like I could learn so much from Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller's newest book, Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy, which reads like a friend recounting poignant memories--some painful, some sweet. This might sound strange, but as I read, I got the feeling that if Miller could befriend my husband and I, he would. 

On the surface, this is a book about Miller's road to emotional health after years of failed relationships before he met his fiance (now wife). But it's really so much more than a book on how to marry the right person or to be the kind of person that snags a spouse or how to have a good marriage, though the principles could be applied to any of those pursuits. And, refreshingly, despite "intimacy" being in the subtitle, this is a Christian book on marriage, written by a man, that does not once mention sex (my husband was quick to point this out to me.) The intimacy Miller explores is the best kind of connection, honesty and closeness we can experience with our spouses, children, friends and even coworkers. He also writes a chapter on the "Five Kinds of Manipulators" to show the unhealthy behaviors we should avoid in ourselves and in potential relationships. Throughout the book, Miller's willingness to learn from others and to see himself as helpful to others has encouraged me to reframe my perception of my own relationships.

I finished the book feeling inspired by the many stories of healthy relationships and the insights gleaned from these examples. Between parents and children: Paul Young's story of rebuilding his family's trust after an affair had me in tears. Miller's picture of the relationship the Youngs have with their grown children now says it all: "In the past, when I've had dinner with them, I was surprised at how freely and openly they talked through whatever problem they were dealing with. It's as though their family was a refuge, a place where everybody could be themselves with no fear of being judged" (159).   Between husbands and wives: My favorite insight was Miller's musings on how his wife Betsy would not "complete him" a la Jerry Maguire. Instead, he writes that every human being has an eternal longing and thirst in their heart that will only be filled when Jesus returns. We can't expect even our closest relationship to fill that void, but we can enjoy experiencing that longing together with our spouse. There's also a bit where Miller writes up a business plan for his marriage that is way more awesome than it sounds. But I'm going to leave that as bait for you to get this book and read it with someone you love :)

It's not my habit to write glowing reviews without spending at least a paragraph or two on what I perceive as flaws in the book. So consider this my Valentine's Day present to the blogosphere. I truly enjoyed this book as a whole and am still musing, savoring and praying over its many facets.

*I would spend my own money on this book, but for the purposes of this review I received a free copy from the generous folks at BookLook in exchange for my honest opinion.*

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