Scary Close: Dropping The Act And Finding True Intimacy, by Donald Miller
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
In several ways, this most excellent book lives up to its title. On the surface level, the book speaks about the barriers to intimacy faced by the author along his road to courtship with a wonderful wife. It talks about the author’s issues growing up without a father, being a very anxious and nervous kid who projected intelligence and humor as a way to gain attention and applause, and how he became a writer out of a need to control his own narrative, and how he sabotaged relationships by being too insecure before marrying very late, in his 40’s. The book itself takes a thematic approach, looking at family background, psychology, and theology in its path of how a man learned how to stop trying to perform and feel a bit more comfortable being himself and being vulnerable with a great woman.
There is another way in which this book is scary close, and that is scary close to discussing my own concerns and insecurities when it comes to love. This is the sort of book I could easily imagine myself writing, or at least something very similar to it, albeit expressed in my own style. Many of the tips of the author are wise ones and ones I have sought to live–commit to open honesty, even about the awkward and uncomfortable matters, show vulnerability rather than pretend to be perfect, and seek to better the lives of those around you. These are not necessarily easy, but they are important to living happy and meaningful lives. Particularly poignant is the author’s description of the thirst for achievement being a displaced way of resolving the more fundamental longing for love and meaning, and the author’s commitment to sharing longings with his wife rather than expecting one person to heal the wounds of the past or complete someone. This is a romantic and deeply personal memoir that avoids idolatry while confronting some areas that are highly relevant to my own life and likely the lives of many readers.
This book is short, at just over 200 pages, and it is written in a memorable style that is confessional and gracious. At its heart, this is a book about the sort of way we should behave with friends as well as potential (and actual) spouses and family members. It is a reminder that many of us, by being honest and caring people, are better at relationships than we might think, and some of us need the encouragement. Also, this book confirms the rule that a wise author never writes about love and relationships until he is in a good one. For Christian writers , this means that writing about love and marriage successfully often depend on being in a good marriage first. Otherwise, an author would appear to lack credibility in writing about a subject he or she does not have experience with, since few people want to read memoirs of frustrating experiences in dating and courtship, or endless repetitions of the same unsuccessful scenarios over and over again, given the near-universal preference for narratives of growth and success. While it will likely be a long time before I write such a book as this (as I do not see marriage in the near future), I can at least enjoy reading such books, especially where they focus on fundamentals and a compelling life story and avoid being too programmatic. This book is an excellent example of a book that will appeal to singles and married people looking to celebrate the search for personal spiritual and emotional health while seeking success in intimacy in friendships and marriage.
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