Thursday, June 23, 2011

Through Painted Deserts

Through Painted Deserts by author Donald Miller is an updated/republished version of his first book, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance. The original version was not a big seller, but after Miller became more widely known, his publisher decided to repackage it and try again. The book is a true-to-life account of the author's coming of age season, where he left his home and the life that he knew and set out on the open road.

"It's interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask the difficult questions, how the questions never come up in the room you grew up in, in the town in which you were born. It's funny how you can't ask difficult questions in a familiar place."

The journey documents a sort of pilgrimage when Miller was 21 as he and his friend Paul set out from Houston, Texas on their way to Portland, Oregon and the rest of their lives. They made the trip in a beat-up, hunk-of-junk, VW van. The rust bucket was finicky and unreliable, but it slowed them down and forced them to frame some perspective, and strangely enough, it also served them to appreciate their faith a bit more. The scenes and adventures and folks encountered along the way helped them to understand that life was meant to be lived, not just endured. Out on their own, barely two nickels to rub together, making their way day by day, moment by moment, allowed them to learn that possessions and stuff and never-ending aspirations are not the key to happiness. That key is found in relationship.

The book's dedication is written to Miller's mother, "Mom, here is the first book, rewritten a bit. I didn't know, when I was living it, that it was about leaving home. I think you always knew. Thanks for letting me go. This will always be yours." I found this touching, as I did the whole book. A fun and worthwhile read.