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My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging Hardcover – April 10, 2000

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My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging + Kitchen Table Wisdom 10th Anniversary (Deckle edge) + The Will to Live and Other Mysteries
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (April 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573221503
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573221504
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

When doctor and author Rachel Naomi Remen (Kitchen Table Wisdom) was young, she was caught between two different views of life: that of her rabbi grandfather and that of her highly academic, research-oriented parents, who believed religion was the opiate of the masses. As Remen gravitated toward academics and serving the world as a medical doctor, her grandfather became an "island of mysticism in a vast sea of science." But over time, Remen discovered that two seemingly divergent paths could lead to the same destination, especially as she learned to blend her spiritual beliefs with her medical treatment.

Remen uses the heart-rending stories of her patients to teach readers how to follow in her example, that is, combining a life of service with a life of receiving and giving blessings (a combination that avoids common problems such as burnout, self-sacrifice, and navel gazing). Remen also includes personal stories of her grandfather, who showered the world with his mystical beliefs and wizened blessings. While this story-by-story structure is similar to the bestselling Kitchen Table Wisdom, it is still a tearful and satisfying formula. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

When she was four years old, Remen's grandfather brought her an unusual present: a paper cup of dirt, which he instructed her to water daily. She did, with increasing boredom, until she was astonished to find that a plant had sprouted. "My grandfather was a scholar of the Kabbalah, the mystical teachings of Judaism," Remen tells us. Through this exercise and others, he taught her that the "spark of God" exists, even in the most unpromising places. Through a series of unpretentious, affecting vignettes, the author of the bestseller Kitchen Table Wisdom encourages readers to recognize and celebrate the unexpected blessings in their own lives. Many of her recollections are linked to her experiences as a medical student and a physician working with cancer patients, but the most memorable ones relate to Remen's deep engagement with her grandfather, who died when she was seven. She gently illustrates her advice through simple yet powerful stories, such as that of a young woman whose husband helped her discover the real meaning of beauty years after her devastating mastectomy; of a widow who learned to cherish her husband's memory with love instead of with "a monument of pain"; and of a little boy who recognized that it's easier to love just a few toys than it is to love many. "Wisdom," Remen writes in this exceptional book, "lies in engaging the life you have been given as fully and courageously as possible and not letting go until you find the unknown blessing that is in everything." Author tour.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., has been counseling those with chronic and terminal illness for more than twenty years. She is co-founder and medical director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program in Bolinas, California and is currently clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine.

Customer Reviews

Each short story has a very nice message, full of insight and wisdom.
Cherrice Traver
As with Rachel Naomi Remen's previous book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, her wonderful stories of living are so profound and wise.
Harmony Kiser
The stories are great - it's a good book to keep next to your bed and read one or two stories before going to sleep.
Jill B

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Daniel on June 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Change of life does not always mean hormonal changes. After life threatening illnesses which are now considered chronic, I broused Amazon and have purchased many books which spoke of the nature of illness and the changes which occur during their life in your body. The books spoke little of the soul. They spoke little of being dependent on others, feeling awful most of the time, asking questions of the gods which went unanswered and so on and so on. Very boring stuff. Then this book. Rachel Naomi Remen: you have answered my questions. You have polished my soul. You have taught me the lessons which meditation could not, soothed me when food could not, enlivened me when wine could not. Sitting in my doctor's waiting room, crying just reading your introduction to your Grandfather, I was called into the examining room and while having a PAP smear, read a portion of your book to my internist. I am blessed with a doctor who not only is a fine diagnostician, but a man of great humor. He said this was a first for him. Me, too. There is no time in life when reading a chapter of that book is not in perfect accordance with the rules of medicine, both physical and emotional. Thank you does not say it. I thought I was beyond words. Obviously, not. I recommend this book to everyone, sick or well....but especially to those for whom illness is a constant companion. There are many road to healing. I read somewhere: "My illness is a friend who brings me great truths." It brought me your book as well. I bless you.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Brad4d VINE VOICE on May 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
Of the hundreds of books I have read, I consider this one of the very best. By way of background, I am a Board-certified clinical dentist with 17 years experience and three years of post-doctoral training. This collection of essays explores the value of our contributions to life, and the value of life's contributions to us. Although Dr Remen is an experienced oncologist, she has found most of her lessons by observing "the mysterious simple things," including her beloved grandfather's gentle and loving suggestions.
These stories almost seem mystical in their value and goodness. They are wise and profound, despite (rather than because of) her clinical skills (medicine and medical business have usually emphasized competence and quickness rather than anything akin to compassion).
I read one chapter of her book each day, along with my religious readings, and rarely finish the chapter without a tear in my eye and a glimmer of insight. She is a superb teaacher and I'd recommend her book to anyone who wonders how they are ever going to show caring or kindness in the kind of world they live in.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Judy Tuttle on April 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a Registered Nurse of many years, I found the book helpful in rekindling myself as a compassionate caregiver. Reading Rachel's book is like living the stories right along with her. Having had the pleasure of listening to her speak, and then reading her books has helped me to look at life differently. I found myself not wanting to put the book down. I wholeheartedly recommed this book, as well as "Kitchen Table Wisdom: Storied That Heal" to anyone who needs to learn to live well, or to anyone who needs healing. (We all need a little healing once in a while!) Thank you Rachael, your books have opened my eyes as a caregiver.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Sandra D. Peters on April 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Rachel and her grandfather walk through life on a different path. Rachel is the academic achiever, who devotes her life to helping others in her profession as a medical doctor. Her grandfather, a rabbi and man of great wisdom, sees the world through a more devine and holy light. While their paths may be different, their ultimate purpose in life is the same. I never had the opportunity to bond with any of my grandparents, the geographical miles between us were far too great; however, it would be one of life's greatest blessings to have had a grandfather as wise, gentle and understanding as Rachel's.
The stories contained here will bring a smile and evoke a tear, as science, medicine, religion and spirituality exquisitely merge together throughout the pages of the book. Rachel embraces the world and the reader with her compassion and love for humanity. As you read through the pages, you will be left with a better understanding of life's true meaning and purpose; it is a well-written and thought-provoking book.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sophia VINE VOICE on July 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In "My Grandfather's Blessings," Dr. Rachel Remen uses stories of her rabbi grandfather, her patients and herself to illustrate ways in which illness and death can bring hope, insight, and transformation into peoples' lives. She gives especial attention to the conflicts between the way in which science and medicine has been traditionally practiced and religion and spirituality.
This book is a wonderful, luminous primer for restoring a sense of soul to science. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mary G. Longorio VINE VOICE on June 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dealing long distance with the terminal illness of a loved one, I have begun to feel depleted and impotent. I picked up this book at the recommendation of a friend. At first, I was not sure it would do me any good. As I kept reading it found I was soothed and encouraged by the stories within. I even felt myself being gently chided, for I had been looking at the illness through the protective (and emotionally safer) eyes of the health care professional I am. It allowed me to open an area that I had kept shut, the feelings I had about the illness and the potential loss. I found the book to be a comfort and a blessing. I have kept it at my bedside and have turned to portions which I need for that day. It is divided into several areas speaking of both receiving and giving and how they are intertwined. I cannot put into words the comfort and encouragement these pages gave me.
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