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My Grandfather's Blessings : Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

4.35  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,758 Ratings  ·  290 Reviews
In My Grandfather's Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, a cancer physician and master storyteller, uses her luminous stories to remind us of the power of our kindness and the joy of being alive.

Dr. Remen's grandfather, an orthodox rabbi and scholar of the Kabbalah, saw life as a web of connection and knew that everyone belonged to him, and that he belonged to everyone. He taugh
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Riverhead Books
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Best Inspirational/Self Help
379th out of 399 books — 381 voters
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Community Reviews

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Dec 31, 2008 Sundy rated it really liked it
This book has been especially poignant to read because I had a neighbor/friend die of cancer at Thanksgiving. Another neighbor just finished his first round of chemotherapy. My dad died a little over a year ago of cancer. Another neighbor just a few months before my dad. This is a book that, I have decided, needs to be read in snatches. Read. Think. Weeks go by. Forget. Re-read. Re-think. Remember. I had put the book aside for a bit and now it's time to read a few more pages.

One of my favorite
Elizabeth Pinborough
Jun 10, 2007 Elizabeth Pinborough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women!
"We avoid suffering only at the great cost of distancing ourselves from life. In order to live fully we may need to look deeply and respectfully at our own suffering and at the suffering of others. In the depths of every wound we have survived is the strength we need to live. The wisdom our wounds can offer us is a place of refuge. Finding this is not for the faint of heart. But then, neither is life" (138.

In this book Rachel Naomi Remen chronicles, anecdotally, her experiences in her medical pr
Sep 10, 2008 Dana rated it it was amazing
I like short chapters, and this book has short chapters that can stand alone and uplift. Very moving accounts of one doctor's counseling work among terminally and chronically ill people.
Feb 21, 2008 Lia rated it did not like it
This is another one of those books I would classify as "Pop Religion", and, being a devout religionist myself, perhaps had a reaction to it similar to that of a real scientist to any number of the "Pop Science" books that top the charts. As far as the book is concerned, the same non-points and not-so pithy platitudes were repeated over and over again using only slightly varying personal experiences from her years as a therapist as justification for her generalizations. The principles on which I ...more
Kristin Traylor
Dec 29, 2015 Kristin Traylor rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful book! It is a series of very short essays, coming from her experiences growing up and also practicing medicine.and I read 1-2 each evening. Very moving, and encouraging.
Oct 25, 2012 Carol rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book! The author is a cancer physician who counsels with people dealing with cancer. Though raised by almost athiest parents, her grandfather secretly taught her of his beliefs as an Orthodox Jew while she was a young child. It is so beautifully written and speaks of the kindness and goodness of humanity, of finding joy,awe and peace in the midst of our trials interwoven with her beliefs. She shares many different stories that she has learned from those she has come in co ...more
Oct 29, 2011 CarrieLyn rated it liked it
I had to warm up to this book. Parts of it seem cliche, but parts are really memorable. I love the story of the boy who is crazy about his hot wheels car, but when a bunch of people give him hot wheels, he puts them all away because he doesn't know how to love that many. And, big surprise ending, the epilogue draws on the story of the Jaredites in the Book of Mormon as an example of how we should be willing to step out of our comfort zone knowing that we can rely on the light provided by the fin ...more
Jun 06, 2013 Stephanie rated it liked it
Shelves: book-group
Not being a novel with a plot, I found it difficult to get around to reading this book. But, that being said, once I did pick it up, I enjoyed it. There were many inspiring passages and wished I weren't reading a library copy so I could underline and mark up the book. However, by the middle of the book I realized that I had forgotten most of the "inspiring" passages. I think this was due to there being just too much to remember and retain. Maybe if I were in the medical field or going through a ...more
Jan 09, 2009 Teddi added it
Recommends it for: anyone
This book was not at all what I originally thought it would be. Each chapter is short and a 'mini story' of someone's life or a concept. The author has done an excellent job of sharing her insight on what it means to bless the lives of others and how we are all intricately woven into each others lives. I found myself getting emotional many times during the reading and was very touched by the true experiences that were shared. This is a book that I will re-read just to remember the gems and wisdo ...more
Jun 15, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: want-to-buy
This was recommended to me by a friend who read this book when she had cancer. It is full of terrific insights for any of us, whether or not we are struggling with huge challenges. The author shares amazing experiences she's had as a pediatrician and as a counselor to people fighting cancer. A book that inspires you to live better and love others more fully. Of course, I didn't agree with every single opinion of hers, but that doesn't diminish my overall impression of the book. There are tons of ...more
Karen Mcintyre
Apr 27, 2008 Karen Mcintyre rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who is seeking the deeper meaning of life.
Recommended to Karen by: My daughter - who had to read it for a class at college.
Shelves: storytelling
Rachel Naomi Remen works as a Psychiatrist she is Co-Founder and Medical Director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. My Grandfather's Blessings is a compilation of stories, each independent of the other. The book can be read out of order and used to focus thoughts before meditation.

I love this book better than her book Kitchen Table Wisdom because it tells so much of her grandfather's influence on her life. I have read the book until it is falling apart!

I come back to it for nourishment in
Nov 16, 2012 Lois rated it really liked it
Unlike many in my book club, I loved this book. It is a perfect bathroom book too as the chapters are short and you can get uplifting thoughts in short segments. I loved the quote "And God said, Let there be light. He is speaking to us personally. He has given us to not only carry the light, but kindle and strengthen the light in one another, passing the light along. This is the way God's light will shine forever in this world."

And, "we are here to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better."
Sandra Strange
Jun 30, 2010 Sandra Strange rated it really liked it
I really was touched by the sweet reflections of this author, a doctor who left conventional medicine to join a group who stresses holistic medicine, dealing with the spirit, as well as the body. She counsels with people experiencing fatal or chronic illness, as well as those doctors and nurses who treat them. Using her own experiences and what her gentle Jewish rabbi grandfather taught her as a child (he died when she was seven), she muses on the truths about living and valuing life.
Jun 06, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book is full of inspiring stories! It's not something you can read quickly, at least I couldn't. It's the type of book that you will want to read again so you can remember the stories and share them with others. I like that each chapter is a short, complete thought that teaches a small gem of wisdom. It will make you think deeply about life. I only gave it 4 stars because I would say I really liked it but I didn't love it, I prefer reading other genres. Overall it's a great book!
Jan 09, 2011 Carol rated it it was amazing
If I was asked to choose a favorite book, that would be very difficult for me, but I would have to favor this one. The stories of courage and inspiration are phenomenal! I dare anyone to read this book and not see yourself or those you know walking through Rachel's beautifully written words. Rachel is an author that I would truly love to meet. What a thrill it would be to sit down and discuss life with this wonderful woman!
Jan 17, 2010 Lorraine rated it really liked it
Beautiful reminisces of a physician and her patients and the wisdom she learned from their suffering. Wisdom from her Rabbi Grandfather, who taught her while very young. Short anecdotes of lessons learned from a variety of places and circumstances. This is how I have envisioned recording all the wisdom I learned teaching K for 25 years. My notes and stories are still in a box in the basement. I may try putting them in print.
Jun 01, 2013 Francie rated it really liked it
Don't let the introduction to this book put you off -- once you get into the beautiful little gem-filled chapters you will love it. So many words of wisdom in there I started taking notes. I may have to buy myself a copy so I can mark it up with highlights and remember the stories behind each priceless treasure!
Mar 09, 2015 Nicole rated it really liked it
I'm only half-way, page 150, but it's due back to the library. I do want to come back and finish it, but I'm in no hurry.

Written by an emotional optimist whose day job is an oncologist, this book has endless nuggets of wisdom. So much so that it feels difficult to truly digest or organize. Each 2-5 page story has a beautiful little moral. I feel like it would be better read as a reference or a thought-a-day book.

One reviewer described it as "pop religion" which I found very fair! Tidbits from e
Jan 12, 2016 Becky rated it liked it
This is essentially a Chicken Soup for the Physician's Soul type of book. Dr. Remen has written a series of short stories to discuss the importance of connection, compassion, and wonder in medicine. Many of the stories are deeply moving, and there were times when I caught myself tearing up as I read the book.

Dr. Remen is also an admirable and fascinating person. She is the granddaughter of an Orthodox rabbi and the daughter of two talented and committed healthcare professionals. She herself is
Libby Ames
Apr 10, 2008 Libby Ames rated it really liked it
Shelves: motivational
I usually struggle with the self-help, motivational books. However, this book was touching and nice to read. I had to read it in small doses, but I learned from the ideas shared.
Georgia Herod
Oct 28, 2015 Georgia Herod rated it really liked it
A collection of simple and profound stories, some from Remen's grandfather, but mostly anecdotes related to her life as a pediatrician, and later a counselor for those who are living/dying with cancer, stories addressing suffering, meaning, love, faith and miracles. A pioneer in the mind/body health movement, treating patients holistically, Remen realized that the soul, mind, and emotions affect the person physically.

Easy reading, but also provocative, providing stimulus for readers' reflective
Valerie J K
Dec 07, 2015 Valerie J K rated it it was amazing
My Grandfather's Blessings is a collection of about 100 stories of healing and wisdom from the author's experience. Her influences draw from a variety of incidents and relationships including her Grandfather (a Kabbalist and Orthodox rabbi who believed that sparks of God's presence are "encountered daily in the most simple, humble, and ordinary ways"), her parents (research-oriented academics who instructed her Grandfather not to speak to her about "God and other such superstitions"), personal e ...more
Apr 01, 2011 Joe rated it it was amazing
This is a book of readings…about healing. Most are 2-3-4 pages long and can be read in maybe 5 minutes each. My wife shared the book with me one day when she felt that a particular reading might be especially meaningful and helpful for me. I liked it so much that I began to read from it daily, one of the first things I do. It’s a book of wisdom and encouragement. I have found it very nourishing.

From the back cover (of the paperback edition):
“In My Grandfather’s Blessing, Rachel Naomi Remen, a ca
zen Tao
Aug 12, 2010 zen Tao rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aus Liebe zum Leben....

das ist der Titel des Buches, welches ich euch vorstelle,

ein Buch über das Leben, wie es Naomi Remen in ihrem Leben als Ärztin erlebt. Geschichten aus dem Alltag ihrer Patienten, welche sie als Beraterin von an Krebs erkrankten Menschen erlebt. Sie ist aufgewachsen in einem Jüdischen Elternhaus und wurde stark geprägt durch ihren Grossvater, welcher ein Rabbi (Rabbiner) war. Von ihm und durch ihn hat sie, ihre ersten Grundlegenden Erfahrungen, dass wir alle immer gesegnet
Feb 02, 2008 Renee rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Renee by: customer
This book was recommended to me by a lay minister working on her PhD in theology. My first thought was "No way. The last thing I want to read is a bunch of God Squad Chicken Soup for the whatever hype." She assured me it was anything but that.

It has become one of my all-time favortie books. There are stories in the collection that had me laughing until I couldn't catch my breath and others that were so touching that you can't help but be affected. Far from being a 2x4 for organized religion or
Jun 02, 2008 Jana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-changing
First of all, I love the way she defines "blessing" as having a profound impact on someone else's life. This book made me want to bless the lives of those around me, and made me more consciously grateful for those who have impacted my own life in significant ways.

Having worked in oncology, she has witnessed the grieving of both families and patients as they come to grips with a terminal illness and impending death. She talks a great deal about how necessary grieving is to our healing, and impar
Sep 15, 2011 Wendy rated it it was amazing
I started listening to this audio book today while I was driving around town. I was in a very bad mood - anything and everything was irritating me and I just wanted to yell and slam doors. Ok, I was home alone so I did yell and slam doors - scared the heck out of the dogs - they could use a good scare - maybe they will shut up when I tell them too .... but I digress ....

This Rachel Naomi Remen is the hero of my day! Holy cow, this is deep, powerful stuff if it can cut through the mood I was in,
Warren Rochelle
Jan 17, 2014 Warren Rochelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am quite certain that the reviews of this beautifully written book have been copious and enthusiastic--so certain, in fact, that I almost decided that one more review would be superfluous. Maybe so. But these short true stories and accounts of Rachel Naomi Remen's work with cancer patients in all stages of the disease--remission to days from death, and of her work with doctors to help them remember they are humans working with humans moved me in a very profound way. They are stories of "streng ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Marian rated it it was amazing
"My Grandfather's Blessings" by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD. It is a collection of stories of wisdom she learned in life. Rachel grew up in a family that believed religion was the opiate of the masses. Her Grandfather on the other hand was a Jewish rabbi and on the sly filled her mind with teachings of God. When she began her practice of medicine she discovered she looked at life as taught in medical school - with a hard scientific eye - little attachment with people. It brought her little satisfacti ...more
Oct 11, 2009 Fran rated it it was amazing
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Rachel Naomi Remen is one of the earliest pioneers in the mind/body holistic health movement and the first to recognize the role of the spirit in health and the recovery from illness. She is Co-Founder and Medical Director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program featured in the Bill Moyers PBS series, Healing and the Mind and has cared for people with cancer and their families for almost 30 years.
More about Rachel Naomi Remen...

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“Most of us lead far more meaningful lives than we know. Often finding meaning is not about doing things differently; it is about seeing familiar things in new ways. ” 63 likes
“Our purpose in life is to grow in wisdom and in love.” 19 likes
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