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.
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