Matthew's Reviews > A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
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's review
Jan 27, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction

I’m not a Donald Miller fan-boy. Let’s just make that clear and get it out of the way.

Despite being a not-entirely-un-trendy Christian man in his twenties, I never read Blue Like Jazz. In fact, the only Donald Miller book I had encountered was Searching For God Knows What, which I quit halfway through (which I almost never do). I guess I saw why some people were drawn to his writing, but I just didn’t connect. At all.

Then, I read his new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

You should see the looks on the faces of my friends when I tell them how good this book is. I’m not the guy you’d expect to think a Donald Miller book is good. And it’s very good. So good I honestly feel inadequate to write a review of it. I haven’t been so emotionally moved by a work on non-fiction in a long time. I almost feel like I’m going to take away from the experience by trying to put it into words, which will inevitably miss capturing the soul of it.

Here goes anyway.

The premise of the book is simple. Miller has some filmmakers interested in making a movie about his life based on an earlier book he wrote. During the process, Miller studies stories, what makes them good, how to write good characters, how to make audiences care. And he comes to a discovery: He doesn’t have a great story to tell.

From there we follow as Miller sets off to write a better story for himself, creating “inciting incidents” for himself and “pointing to the horizon” and actually going there. Written mostly in narrative form, Miller recounts the tales of those he encounters as he writes his own stories. This is all held together within the framework of the idea of “story,” as Miller explores the different elements in real-time.

Fighting his own tendencies towards complacency, Miller decides to track down his absentee father, hike the Inca Trail in Peru, ride his bike across the country (literally), and start a mentoring program to help young kids who have no fathers. Miller states, “We don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants.”

And it's not just the things he does, it's the people he meets. It's clearly the relationships that make the story great.

The book is full of stories that will inspire you to truly live life, not simply exist in it. The book isn’t a self-help book, but it will help you immensely and give you a picture for what life can be, if we are only willing to step into the stories God has for us. It involves risks, yes, but that’s what makes the stories worth caring about. It’s what makes us sit on the edge of our seats, wondering if the protagonist will accomplish what he set out to do. It’s what makes us give ourselves permission to feel.

If you’re the kind of person who finds this mushy and naïve, that’s fine. I have plenty of moments where I feel cynical and pessimistic. But I didn’t feel that way while reading this book. I don’t want to feel that way in life. This book isn't a rah-rah speech to motivate you or your typical Christian book of empty platitudes; it's an articulation of a worldview that trusts God and forces us to truly engage His world. Miller states, “Before I learned about story, I was becoming a fatalist. I was starting to believe you couldn’t feel meaning in life because there wasn’t any meaning to be found. But I don’t believe that anymore.”

Neither do I.
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