Dare I say, “Blue Like Jazz” was a once in a lifetime book? It was the right book for the right time with the right tone. A writer probably only has one such book in him, if he is lucky. Donald Miller is on a hiding to nothing trying to write a follow-up. Readers now come armed with those most evil of emotions for writers and film-makers high expectations. They are looking forward to more of the same experience that Miller previously delivered in Blue like Jazz. And “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” does not deliver and in fact it was cruel of me to expect it to.
It is exactly this blight of “quick success” that has put Don Miller in the slump we find him in at the beginning of the book. The book cleverly follows three inter-related threads- the nature of life as a story, Miller’s own search for a better story and the writing of “Blue like Jazz”, the movie script. The main idea of the book is that each of our lives are a story, some of us live great stories and some of us live terrible stories or non-stories. Throughout the book Miller explores this nature of story through the writing of the screenplay which is mirrored in his own search for a better life story that the slump he is currently in. Miller is a great story teller and he had me cheering him on, laughing out loud, furiously underlining, inspired, frustrated and even shedding a tear at one point.
Miller’s search for a story leads him to hike the Andes, kayak the Jervis inlet, cycle across America, found a mentoring organisation for fatherless kids, find love and lose love again.
Story has been a theme I have been thinking about quite a bit lately and I picked up this book eager to see what Miller’s unusual way of looking at the world brought to this theme. I must confess that apart from the chapter entitled “The Reason God Hasn’t Fixed You Yet” which is quite brilliant, I found the book “Jesus-lite.” I am not sure what Miller’s reasoning behind this was, as he speaks quite clearly and unambiguously when he does speak of Jesus. I found it particularly unusual given that the great story he seeks and which he speaks about is so clearly fulfilled in Jesus. He briefly touches on this but I was honestly surprised he did not explore this more. It would have given the book a greater punch and a greater depth. In the end what could have been a really great book ends up being a bit fluffy with some great scenes without really going anywhere. Dare I say that Miller fails somewhat to do what he explores throughout the book- write a great story?