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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
256 pages
Aug 2005
Nelson Books

Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road

by Donald Miller

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


In Donald Miller's autobiographical book, Through Painted Deserts, a road-trip becomes a journey to find God's beauty and grace. Best friends, Don and Paul, long to escape from the restless city of Houston as they head off to explore America country in an old Volkswagen van. Who knew that along the way they would experience God?

Miller uses a first-person narrative form that creates a personal relationship between the reader and himself. He uses short chapters to move the events swiftly and smoothly, however, at times his descriptions are excessive and slow the dialogue. By using the differences between the characters, he creates a humorous relationship, wherein each character brings out the other's strengths. This increases the quality of the dialogue and makes it enjoyable.

Don was never taken seriously--he always joked with friends and strangers at the best and worst times. To him, jobs were more of a concept than a practice. He was also attached to earthly things. He longed to buy all he wanted, even though he never needed it. Houses, boats, and cars all held a special place in his heart. It is ironic how this materialistic house-dweller became best friends with an outdoorsman, who would rather sleep on dirt than a bed of silk. Their relationship was unlikely, but it grew strong. Their differences accentuated each other and brought out the best in one another.

The two improbable best friends set out to travel the country to escape the noise and hustle in Houston. They had no set plan for their trip, except to see the Grand Canyon. Paul had convinced Don to camp at the bottom of the canyon. It was a feat they both conquered with great pride. Throughout the story, the most powerful faith lesson comes from their ancient Volkswagen van. Don and Paul had to constantly keep their faith in God that He would provide for them when the van would give out and all hope seemed lost.

After the Grand Canyon, they traveled to see a friend in California for a night, and then to see some friends in Oregon for a week. After being on the road for so long, they realized they needed to find jobs. Paul called a ranch that he had worked at once before. Since they had no money at the time, they lived in the woods with only a tent, two sleeping bags, and a few personal items. They relied on God to provide food and showers for them daily. Every night, they were able to look at the stars in wonder. It was then that Don realized that he did not need a big house, a nice car, or a boat to satisfy his needs. All he needed was a bowl of cereal and a view of God's sunrise to keep him happy.

This book mirrors what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25, “Therefore, I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, or what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” We all are like Don at some point in our lives. We see what we want, and we believe we need it. However, Through Painted Deserts will challenge readers to depend on God to provide for all needs and experience contentment in all things. This book is beneficial for any teenager or adult who wants to see God's giving grace. -- Angela George, Christian Book

Book Jacket:

Fueled by the belief that something better exists than the mundane life they've been living, free spirits Don and Paul set off on an adventure-filled road trip in search of deeper meaning, beauty, and an explanation for life. Many young men dream of such a trip, but few are brave enough to actually attempt it. Fewer still have the writing skills of Donald Miller, who records the trip with wide-eyed honesty in achingly beautiful prose. In this completely revised edition, he discusses everything from the nature of friendship, the reason for pain, and the origins of beauty.

As they travel from Texas to Oregon in Paul's cantankerous Volkswagen van, the two friends encounter a variety of fascinating people, witness the fullness of nature's splendor, and learn unexpected lessons about themselves, each other, and even God.