Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Lessons Learned from an Edited Life
By Lauren Yarger
Donald Miller isn’t an easy man to get to know. In fact, he doesn’t seem to know himself all that well, which is the premise for his latest book, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life" (Thomas Nelson, 2009).

Miller, who catapulted to fame with his best selling “Blue Like Jazz,” found his life had stalled. He was avoiding his publisher and deadlines while pondering the meaning of life when two filmmakers, Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson (“The Second Chance”) contacted Miller about adapting “Blue Like Jazz” into a movie.

The three begin to transform the “Don” of the book into a more film-friendly and easier-to-know character, and in the process, Miller discovers that his life is really, rather boring on the surface. He tries to create scenes for the character by remembering significant moments, and finds he has forgotten a lot and events that he does remember don’t lend themselves to great cinematography. He starts living new stories to create a character, including attempting a reconciliation with the father whom he barely remembers, and ends up writing a new life story.

What seems at first ramblings by a guy who is having trouble finding something worthwhile about his life to report to a God portrayed as impersonal and not inclined to let humans in on what their life’s purpose is anyway, shifts and becomes a rather thoughtful collection of insights into what’s important and how we can shape our lies into better stories.

I particularly enjoyed the format of the book, which follows Miller’s attempts to structure his life like a screenplay. Exposition is followed by chapters breaking down the overall premise driving any story plot: a character who wants something and who overcomes conflict to get it. Being a writer, I could relate to this approach to life and the format made Miller’s experiences and stories far more interesting.

In fiction, characters often take on a life of their own and write a story quite different from the one the author sets out to pen. So it is with life, Miller discovers, as characters write their own stories, despite what God, the author, might have had in mind.

“I told God no again, but he came back to me and asked me if I really believed he could write a better story – and if I did, why didn’t I trust him.”

It’s this kind of deep philosophical thought mixed with dry humor that propels “A Million Miles.” Despite an underlying sadness you can’t help feel comes from the author’s belief that he doesn’t know God as well personally as he’d like to or should, the book is a thoughtful exploration of developing a meaningful life.

You can download some sample chapters here. For more information or to purchase the book, click here.

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Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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