Scary Close is about a lot of things. It is part memoir, part relationship advice, part cognitive-behavioral therapy. All of it speaks to how life is better lived together than alone, and how love is king.
The author, Donald Miller, is most famous for Blue Like Jazz, a book that was published more than a decade ago. In Scary Close, Miller talks about the celebrity and pressure that came with the book, and the paradox of isolating himself to write books about community and love. “It’s one thing to impress people,” he writes, “but it’s another to love them.” He reveals how difficult it was to be his true self, because he didn’t feel able to share that with anyone. Not even his fiancee – their engagement was canceled when all parties realized it wasn’t going to work.
Miller’s public breakup was a low point; he spent over a year reevaluating his life and his career. Through the guidance of good friends, he discovered he wasn’t living authentically and he decided to change that. Rather than hiding behind his intellect or his public persona, we wanted authenticity. He wanted to love and be loved by others.
Miller’s definition of a successful life changed. He was less interested in his image and his bank and his spot of best-seller lists, and more on building a legacy. He summarizes it this way:
This book is about how I realized I could have a happy life without splitting an atom or making a splash. It’s true our lives can pass small and unnoticed by the masses, and we are no less dignified for having lived quietly. In fact, I’ve come to believe there’s something noble about doing little with your life save offering love to a person who is offering it back.
We’re never going to be perfect in love but we can get close. And the closer we get, the healthier we will be. Love is not a game any of us can win, it’s just a story we can live and enjoy. It’s a noble ambition, then, to add a chapter to the story of love, and to make our chapter a good one…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.
While the book is over 200 pages, I read it at a leisurely pace and it took less than a week. If you hesitate to open up like you want to, or you’re looking for a kick in the butt to be a better person in your relationships with loved ones, Scary Close may be a good way to spend a rainy weekend.