Scary Close – Review of Donald Miller’s latest book


When you read a Donald Miller book, you sometimes feel you’re eavesdropping. He tells details that most people don’t. About his personal life. About what he’s really thinking.

“‘You’re being a bully,’ she said softly. ‘A bully,’ I said deliberately, as though to accuse her of drama.”

But because he does, you learn more not only about him, but also about yourself.

“To have an intimate relationship, you have to show people who you really are.”

Donald Miller is a storyteller first and foremost in his books. It’s how he gets his points across without being preachy. Some of the stories he retells had me sobbing in his latest book Scary Close. Stories of vulnerability and lives well lived and times of mess-ups.

“I looked over and he pointed at Karate’s bed. No kidding, right by his pillow was an old, worn-out teddy bear. Karate slept with a teddy bear. Unbelievable. I swear I loved the guy after that. Sometimes the story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us.”

The heart of his story in this memoir (of sorts) is that performance-based relationships will leave you cold and insecure, but real intimacy—albeit painful at times—will change your life for the better. It’s worth the risk.

He walks you through his own history of relationships and you groan at times from his self-revelations. Each chapter leads you closer to his true love, Betsy (he shares their wedding photos here) and the truth about himself. In the discoveries, he realizes that no one will complete him, and that no relationship will fill all voids. And that’s okay.

“I don’t know if there’s a healthier way for two people to stay in love than to stop using each other to resolve their unfulfilled longings and, instead, start holding each other closely as they experience them.”

I appreciate Miller’s honesty, his humility, his humor. While I didn’t always need the same lessons he was learning (our demons differ), I still benefited from hearing them. And the lessons I did need? It felt like hearing them from a friend.

Here are a few favorite quotes from Scary Close.

“Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.”

~ * ~

“The last thing I learned about relationships by swimming in the pond was there are more lifeguards than sharks. What I mean is, for the most part, other people aren’t out to get us.”

~ * ~

“But love doesn’t control, and I suppose that’s why it’s the ultimate risk. In the end, we have to hope the person we’re giving our heart to won’t break it, and be willing to forgive them when they do, even as they will forgive us. Real love stories don’t have dictators, they have participants.”

~ * ~

“So I wrote. I wrote as though God thought my voice mattered. I wrote because I believed a human story was beautiful, no matter how small the human was. I wrote because I didn’t make myself, God did. And I wrote like he’d invited me to share my true ‘self’ with the world.”

~ * ~

“To remind myself to never go back to being careful, I made a list of new freedoms. It looked like this:

  • I am willing to sound dumb.
  • I am willing to be wrong.
  • I am willing to be passionate about something that isn’t perceived as cool.
  • I am willing to express a theory.
  • I am willing to admit I’m afraid.
  • I’m willing to contradict something I’ve said before.
  • I’m willing to have a knee-jerk reaction, even a wrong one. I’m willing to apologize.
  • I’m perfectly willing to be perfectly human.”

~ * ~

“We don’t think much about how our love stories will affect the world, but they do. Children learn what’s worth living for and what’s worth dying for by the stories they watch us live. I want to teach our children how to get scary close, and more, how to be brave. I want to teach them that love is worth what it costs.”

* * *

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the review copy of this book

14 thoughts on “Scary Close – Review of Donald Miller’s latest book

  1. Sharon

    I love Donald Miller, and I love his writing. I am so glad that I came over here today and found out that he has a new book. It sounds typical “him” – funny, insightful, enlightening – and thoroughly enjoyable. Your review was wonderful, and this book is now on my to-read list.

    Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your love of reading with all of us.

    And thank you for also being one of those people who let’s us see the “real” you. You are beautiful.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love everything I’ve read by Donald Miller. I’m not surprised we have that in common, Sharon.

      Thank you for your sweet words. I appreciate you for always being so authentic yourself! You let yourself be known, and we love you for it.

  2. Mary Geisen

    Donald Miller is on my list of authors to read. There are several of his books that I have heard about and now his latest- Scary Close. What a gifted author! Great review and great insight into his book. Have a great weekend.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You can’t go wrong with a Donald Miller book. In my opinion anyway. 🙂 He’s definitely gifted in spilling his guts in a way that is interesting to the rest of us. You have a great weekend too, Mary!

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Looks like an interesting book.

    Intimacy and vulnerability require not only risk – they need imagination, as well. You’ve got to be able to see yourself there, letting go of the defenses, falling into that ‘sea’, as it were.

    I can’t really do it. I’ve become the ‘harder than pain’ persona to the degree that now, it IS me, and while I can love, and be compassionate, it’s much more an abstract thing. It’s not being ‘performance-based’, as Miller puts it. It’s simply different, and there is nothing but an echo of what I may have been before.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m not surprised that you love Donald Miller too, Katie. 🙂 He’s our kind of authentic guy. I miss you too, Katie, and I continue to pray for you and Matt.

  4. Pamela

    What a great review! I popped over to Amazon and purchased Donald’s book. Now it’s calling me from my Kindle…I think I”m going to give in a read a chapter or two!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hope you’ll enjoy it too, Pamela. Donald has a way of uncovering some of the ugly parts in me that still need reforming. (Um, that’s not what I really enjoy though. ha).

  5. Carrie, Reading to Know

    I’ve long been NOT a Donald Miller fan. One of my chief objections to him (in Blue Like Jazz) was that I witnessed various people begin a Donald Miller movement and that was disturbing to me because, as you point out, he writes like a story teller, sharing a personal journey. If I were to read him like a memoir, then all of these quotes you’ve shared are impacting and thoughtful. I’m honestly intrigued. So long as no one decides to build a Donald Miller church – which happened to be MY personal experience. I don’t think we should instruct others based on one person’s personal experience, but rather on the word of God. However! I do think we can learn from other people’s experiences and that makes Miller intriguing.

    I confess I almost didn’t read this post because of my distaste for him but I did it anyway because I trust you. 😀 And I find myself…… curiously surprised. 😀

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      So I’ve noticed you’re not the only non-fan of Donald Miller. ha. I’ve not heard of the Donald Miller movements. Wow. But I’m guessing he would be the first one to hate the idea of a Donald Miller church. 😉

      I’m glad you trusted me enough to read the post. Hope I won’t betray that trust. I can read some far-out books at times, but this isn’t one of them. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *