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Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road Paperback – Aug 16 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (Aug. 16 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0785209824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0785209829
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.7 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #176,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michelle A. Dewit on April 19 2006
Format: Paperback
I finished "Through Painted Deserts" last night and I was very happy with the book and I have one word to discribe the book - relaxed. I read it in multiple settings and was able to follow it very well from where I had left off. I loved how the book was so realistic and truthful about how Don discovered God through small incidents to the beauty of creation. I also enjoyed the book as well because it got a couple chuckles out of me and a longing to take a roadtrip like that.
Another excellent book by Donald Miller!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 90 reviews
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Mulling "Why" vs. "How" on the open road. Aug. 19 2005
By Erik Olson - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was a big fan of this book's original form, "Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance (PAVM)," when it came out in 2000. Either way, the premise remains the same: Donald Miller and his friend Paul leave Texas in a beat-up Volkswagen van to seek their destiny in Oregon. Along the way they experience cool places, meet interesting people, and wrestle with various life issues. I'm a Christian who loves to travel, so I liked the combination of a literal and spiritual journey. Five years later, Donald Miller has achieved a measure of fame by writing a couple of other Gen-X Christian bestsellers. Perhaps that gave him the clout to pull a Stephen King and rework a previously published book into "Through Painted Deserts." I read somewhere that his purpose this time around was to tell the real story of how the trip went. But there are no momentous revelations - only added flowery exposition, a new anecdote or two, and some cruder male bonding episodes (I sold my copy of "PAVM" awhile back, so I couldn't do a thorough comparison between the two).

The somewhat lofty new title (I liked the old one better) reflects a high-minded literary bent I don't remember from the first time around. There's a serious helping of purple prose about life, nature, and spirituality, especially in the first half or so. It got to be a bit much at times; the writer's admonition to "kill your darlings" came to mind. And some political comments, coupled with a favorable comparison of Northwest women vs. their Texan counterparts, indicate that he's become the Oregonian "granola" Paul accused him of being even before he got here. Between such banter (and a tiff or two), they get serious and discuss deeper Christian guy stuff about what they want in a wife, the meaning of a God-centered life, and so on. Within this context, Mr. Miller ruminates on Christianity's "why" answers to life vs. science's "how" answers. It wasn't quite a Schaeffer vs. Dawkins level of internal monologue, but it was good and relevant nonetheless.

Although I enjoyed seeing how time has affected Mr. Miller, I'm not sure why this book had to be written. Indeed, I wish the original had been re-released instead. Perhaps I've changed as well over five years, but there was something about his virgin effort that made a bigger impression on me. I think those that missed the first release (which I believe is out of print) would have liked following his spiritual and literary progression from "PAVM" through "Blue Like Jazz" and "Searching for God Knows What." But regardless of edition, the interpersonal interactions are real, and there's gold to be mined out of the expository passages. Plus, it was intriguing to get an outsider's description about my native region. I still trip out on the fact that he and Paul eventually wound up in my hometown and experienced more adventures there than I ever did.

"Through Painted Deserts" is a looking glass into a pivotal formative experience of Donald Miller's life. If you enjoyed his other books, and would like some insights into Mr. Miller's spiritual formation, than by all means check this one out. But get "PAVM" if you can track it down, if only to see how he was when he first started out.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Great Road Trip Book March 29 2006
By Jeff Benson - Published on
Format: Paperback
Retitled and re-released after Donald Miller's more recent and more successful books, this is a chronicle of a road trip taken by a young, searching person (the author) and his friend. They patch together a Volkswagon bus and hit the road, without a timeframe or a destination in mind. Their adventures are recounted here, and even though as far as adventures go they're pretty tame, the journey itself is the real point.

The book's message is powerful and struck me on a personal level: Just leave. Most of us don't see how small our lives are, how much we cling to the known, and how much we miss when we limit our horizons to the safe, to what common wisdom tells us is secure. It awakens something in me, the opening preamble of a wistful thought that has not yet found completion. Perhaps it's related to my turning 30 earlier in the year, but here it is, my favorite part and the introductory paragraph that told me I had to take the book home and begin reading it that night.

"Leave. ... Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed."
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A journey both physical and metaphysical July 14 2006
By Wesley L. Janssen - Published on
Format: Paperback
In this volume, Miller gently reminds the modernist that, in the final analysis, the big questions -- the 'why' questions -- determine whether the 'how' questions are important. Gently is the operative adverb.

Although I am not of the generation to whom this books is most naturally directed (older teens through thirty-somethings), and although I am an admitted so-called modernist (which is neither strictly good nor bad, but simply describes most westerners of the past three centuries), I find Donald Miller's observations to be important, consistently valid, and persistently fun. Here's a clip from the second chapter, which should give you a sense for Miller's prose:

"The trouble with you and me is that we are used to what is happening to us. We grew into our lives . . . never able to process the enigma of our composition. Think about this for a moment: if you weren't a baby and you came to earth as a human with a fully developed brain and had the full weight of the molecular experience occur to you at once, you would hardly have the capacity to respond in any cognitive way to your experience. But because we were born as babies and had to be taught to speak and to pee in a toilet, we think all of this is normal. Well, it isn't normal. Nothing is normal. It is all rather odd, isn't it, our eyes in our heads . . . the capacity to understand beauty, to feel love, to feel pain.
"If I do lose faith, that is if I do let go of my metaphysical explanations for the human experience, it will not be at the hands of science. I went to a Stephen Hawking lecture not long ago and wondered about why he thought we get born and why we die and what it means, but I left with nothing, save a brief mention of aliens as a possible solution to the question of origin. And I don't mean anything against Stephen Hawking, because I know he has an amazing brain . . . but I went wondering about something scientific that might counter mysterious metaphysical explanations, and I left with aliens."

The book is a kind of travelogue of a journey both physical and metaphysical; the details need not be related here. There are fanatical, reactionary 'christian' critics who love to hate Donald Miller, which is quite sad. A friend lent my daughter a copy of Miller's 'Blue Like Jazz,' she read it, my wife read it, I read it, my other two daughters read it -- which is honestly amazing, we have different tastes in books, yet we all enjoyed it and all might list it among our most recommendable. I think you'll enjoy 'Through Painted Deserts' and 'Blue Like Jazz' (unless you're a belligerent, religious nut, or a numb-hearted materialist). Miller inspires introspection, and does so with a light heart and a ready wit.

Paul: "You can't beat [Lynyrd] Skynyrd."
Don: "I could if I had a bat."
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Grand Canyon, visions of eggs over easy with a flour tortilla, and a Volkswagon van! Nov. 9 2005
By Wolfe Moffat - Published on
Format: Paperback
Sometimes you hear the cruel, yet funny comment about when a person comes to Christ, it's AFTER they've sung 28 verses of "Just As I Am". I know when I've heard it said like that, a laugh usually resounds through the crowd of people you happen to be with. That's either because it's the same old story, or because people have heard it one too many times. But every so often, the right person just might sing "Just As I Am", and you can't believe it is the same song, because it is sung so beautifully. That's how this played out for me. You hear stories of roadtrips, but they wear thin after a time, and unless the right person tells the story, you kind of think, "Who cares?" But along comes Donald Miller and he makes an ordinary road trip, from Texas to Oregon into a pretty neat read.

And so, you spend a few days on the road, eating beans and rice. The Volkswagon breaks down every so often. You run into some interesting adventures. Don and Paul, two friends, traveling. One thing that strikes me is that they never do it alone, they are with each other the whole time. You come across crazy things, such as Don putting chewing gum over the dash where the check engine light is blazing. You feel the triumph of visiting the Grand Canyon, and the simple celebration of it with a bowl of Raisin Bran with ice cold milk. The simple joy of living life. The thought of just having "eggs over easy with a flour tortilla," as the Lyle Lovett songs speaks of.

Donald Miller speaks of truely living life, not just getting through it. It reminded me in some spots of a Gary Paulsen read. If you've ever read Paulsen, you can't compare too many writers to him. But this had it's moments, and that was worth something, at least 4 stars to me! So, take this pilgrimage for yourself, and get through the bumpy spots. You'll be glad you took the ride!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
What your looking for depends on what you will get with this book. July 8 2006
By Jason M. - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you are looking for another theological book and Christian Spirituality, you most likely will not find it in this book by Don Miller. He attempts to make the book about the 'why' questions of religion and not the 'what' questions - and attempts to answer them with a trip from Houston to Oregon in a VW Wagon with a friend named Paul - but never seems to follow up on this attempt in any way that resolves properly.

He has a few 'deep' conversation that don't get very deep, aren't well developed, and leave you believing that the friendship Don and he shared was mostly left on the trail and not placed in the book. The character of Paul is left sounding a little stupid, while being lovingly described as being a greatly deep and spiritual person. Don's character is left sounding like everything in his life is a joke (albeit many of them funny - but some sounding very staged) and that he cannot finish a complete and deep thought to save his life. The deep thoughts are there, all right, and they come out in snippets, but as far as stringing together a coherent thought from concept to presentation - he just can't get the job done.

Much of the book is like this. He states early on that he hates journaling and from his recollection of his journey chronicled in this book, you can see that that is very true. The times he had look to be recreated many years and beers after the fact where he is left with a mash of good feeling to sort through instead of the crispness of the moment. Thus, you are left wishing he could take you there instead of tell you about it.

With all of this said, if you are looking for a good book about a journey of a young person who is trying to figure some deeper stuff out - this is it. I had a blast with this book and went into hoping for a travel type book. The writing is a little unpolished and newbie-ish - but this seems to leave you with the feeling that this could be you on this trip and writing this book.

I think this not only reflects where the writer was in his career (this is a republishing of a earlier book with a different title) as well as his intent. He stated that with the rewrite he wanted to leave the deeper theological books behind and just tell a travel story. He does that fairly well here. It is no opus, but it is a good tune.

If you are looking for a spiritual book, Blue Like Jazz, like every other reviewer recommends is you book. If you want a book to make you yearn for getting off your butt and going hiking, or road tripping, this is it.

I want to give this book 3.5 stars, but Amazon won't let me. The MAN has held me down. ;)

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