Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Blessing: A Memoir” as Want to Read:
The Blessing: A Memoir
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Blessing: A Memoir

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  159 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
"The inadvertent shooting death of his brother by poet Orr gives this memoir a god-awful specific gravity and spurs the author's search for ways to live on…Here, the old and new meanings of 'blessing' - to sprinkle with blood, to confer spiritual power - harrowingly collide." - Kirkus Review
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2004 by Council Oak Books (first published 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Blessing, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Blessing

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jenni Simmons
Jun 12, 2012 Jenni Simmons rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I once read that memoirs are testimonies of survival, or something to that effect. If the author can live through that, we can survive our sufferings, too. And so, I can't help but think of my favorite memoirs as gifts, as blessings.

At Glen Workshop East in South Hadley, MA, this summer, I perused the delicious tables of books set up by Warren Farha of Eighth Day Books. I asked what he recommended and he named this book. "Gregory Orr is a beautiful man," he said. "His memoir is excellent, and i
Heartrending. Orr is a poet: the writing in his memoir is beautiful. He artfully weaves references to mythology which lends to his story an epic quality--Orr and his father each taking turns at being the tragic hero. I loved the beginning for its language and the characterization of his parents. I thought the pacing was strange in the section about his teenage/college years--maybe this was deliberate: a sort of metaphor for those years (?).

I wish that he would have spent more time reflecting on
Nov 19, 2014 Alan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Poets, Memoir readers looking for non-traditional structure
In THE BLESSING, Gregory Orr's younger self struggles with guilt caused by the accidental death of his brother. But this alone frames the story too simply. Orr reveals a life transformed by internal monologue and mythology, with the intent of evaluating his position in the universe. Orr is most well known for his poetry and this memoir reads with a deliberate eye on pacing and structural efficiency. Reading THE BLESSING from a poet's perspective, I found Orr's insights into the functions of poet ...more
Patricia Murphy
Jan 22, 2011 Patricia Murphy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I had the privilege of working with Greg at a writer's conference, and his careful kindness comes through in life as it does in his writing. I especially appreciate how he is able to reflect on how the accident affected all aspects of his life--how he carries it with him in his daily life. Most of us live with a moment like that in our pockets. Greg describes it in a careful, insightful way.
Jun 30, 2007 Amanda rated it really liked it
Shelves: read_summer_07
First of all, I must get my hormones out of the way before I can say anything intelligent: Doesn't this young picture of Gregory Orr remind you of Orlando Bloom??? ~Or-lando Blooooom~just the name makes me light-headed.

Alas, I feel intelligent again.

The Blessing is a phenomenal memoir about Orr's childhood (Orr shot his brother to death during a hunting accident when he was 12), his adolescence (partly spent in Haiti where his mother suddenly died), and his early adulthood (when he was imprisone
Sep 19, 2008 courtney rated it really liked it
the first third or half or so of this book powerfully and effectively uses memoir to establish gregory orr as a person for whom meaning is essential. his personal history is fascinating, and i would love to have him as a dinner guest, but the second third or third quarter or whatever kind of meanders. his family's voyage in haiti and his work with the sncc are essential components to his development as a writer, but we are given the slideshow presentation. it feels truncated and disjointed. the ...more
May 12, 2011 Ann rated it it was amazing
Gregory Orr writes a memoir that begins with his accidental shooting of his brother (and his brother's death). It explores the rest of his life from there--that crucial event--and how his family continued to spiral down hill after his brother's loss. But it also points up the ways that a tragic event can figure into a life, led him to the Civil Rights movement (briefly) and to his love of poetry (his on-going work). It's beautifully written, and the fragmentation of some of the earlier events re ...more
Apr 14, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
I just finished reading this after meeting Gregory Orr for the first time at the Palm Beach Poetry festival this past January. It's a hard juxtaposition because I saw him as pretty genial, a great dancer when the music started with his wife, and this book is really about the darker pivotal moments in his life.

Aside from his brother's death the more bleak/haunting descriptions are about his civil rights movement experiences. Further away from the 1960s we forget the chances people took in protest
Apr 16, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
Wow. I loved this book. This is one of the best books I’ve read in years. This book is a memoir by a poet. His life is certainly dramatic enough. As a child, he accidentally shoots and kills his younger brother while out hunting with the family. For awhile his family lives in Haiti (his father is a physician who decides to work there) - while there Orr’s mother has surgery and dies. Later as a college student he participates in the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi - the summer after the Free ...more
Mark Hiser
Jun 12, 2011 Mark Hiser rated it really liked it
I seldom read memoirs. I, however, am glad that, for some reason, I decided to read this one.

The poet, Gregory Orr, when a young child, killed his brother in a hunting accident. Living in an emotionally repressed family, Orr had no opportunity to release himself from the horror and shame of the killing. This memoir, then explores a man's search for meaning and light in a place of meaninglessness and darkness.

At times the book was so raw that I felt I was inside the author's heart. Even so, I co
Kristen Hoggatt
Sep 10, 2009 Kristen Hoggatt rated it really liked it
He's a poet, meaning that he's consistently concise and descriptive, but on many occasions I wanted him to be more... long-winded (?), I guess. Orr doesn't have the benefit of line breaks in this piece, and as a poet/memoirist myself, I felt that he didn't compensate. But I admit that maybe this is a problem I am quite attuned to in my own writing, so others may not have a problem. I very much enjoyed it, and I appreciated the organization: beginning with a description of the tragedy (the writin ...more
Jul 14, 2008 Margie rated it did not like it
The book began strong, memorably. I re-read the first several chapters for their spare but distinct wording and imagery. But the book failed to deliver on the blessing of Orr's suffering through childhood and adolescence at the hands of his distant mother and irresponsible father. I ended the book with more questions than answers about his later life, his siblings, what The Blessing was for him, and - I hope - them. I suspect these questions are answered in his poems, but I haven't read any to k ...more
stephanie cassidy
Feb 08, 2013 stephanie cassidy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to stephanie by: me
Do we, ultimately, have to give ourselves permission to survive traumatic events, even if, or especially if, we inadvertently (or purposely) caused them? And then, once we arrive at the doorstep of that question, do we have to knock before being asked to enter, or do we burst right in, or do we, because maybe the door's ajar, let it creak and creak as we look past the jamb?

This is a brilliant, honest, crushing, intimate series of stories, folded origami cranes. I will probably not stop thinking
Mar 02, 2012 Leonard rated it it was amazing
This is an autobiographical account of the poet Gregory Orr's life especially focusing on the definitive experience in his life, and that was the firearm accident in which he (at the age of 12) accidently shot and killed his 8-year-old brother, Peter. It's a heart-rending story, but ultimately triumphant in that Orr finds poetry which saved his life by lifting him out of the depressed, and self-accusing state he was in for years after this brother's death. Also revealing in this book is the fami ...more
Jun 21, 2012 Sidra rated it liked it
Mr. Orr is a beautiful writer. I would give this 3.5. While I enjoyed this memoir, I wanted some more depth in some of his tales and I wanted to know more about how these (oh so) tragic events of his childhood shaped him as an adult. And his siblings barely get mentioned (although, I suppose it is tricky writing about living people...and being respectful about whose story one tells). And had a hard time with some of the religious references.
Jul 16, 2015 Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gregory Orr has written a courageous and stunning memoir about growing up with a shadow so deep and wide that I stand back in awe at his mere survival. Yet Professor Orr has thrived. He brings much needed perspective to the discussion of guns and children and American culture. While there is so much railing and hollering, the onus is inevitably belongs in family homes. This is epicenter center of the debate that remains unspoken.
Jun 20, 2007 Katie rated it it was amazing
Orr experienced a traumatic event as a child: during a hunting trip he mistakenly fired his gun, and his brother was hit in the face and killed by the bullet. This event haunts his intense, simple poems, and this (his memoir) is a beautiful exploration of the place from which our creative impulses originate.
Vincent Scarpa
May 16, 2011 Vincent Scarpa rated it really liked it
Though there is a section of the book, about 3/4 of the way through, that I thought went way off the beaten path, the first half is incredible and the final chapter is a wonderful way to end. Orr searches for mercy and forgiveness, and realizes by the story's end that it had existed in art all along. Orr's language is ripe with pure poetry.
May 16, 2010 Maggi rated it really liked it
Beautiful prose from a poet whose literary style brings grace and redemption to what would otherwise be only a tragic tale. Orr's humanity, honesty, and heart are lovely to behold, and his personal experiences on the Civil Rights movement are quite compelling.
Mar 08, 2015 Christy rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
Very poetic and thought provoking.
Mar 11, 2009 David rated it really liked it
Deeply affecting memoir that made me rethink the whole concept of "blessings" in my life.
Berliana Pasaribu
Sep 10, 2010 Berliana Pasaribu rated it liked it
Bagus dan menakjubkan apalagi pas waktu mengelilingi amerika bagian utara dan selatan.
Mar 30, 2008 Jill rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-class
Beautifully written. Orr manages to render a tragic accident with grace and self-awareness.
Betsy Kalman
Mar 18, 2013 Betsy Kalman rated it it was amazing
Greg Orr is a testimony to the resiliency of the human soul. I wish I could use this memoir as a text for my English 100 students.
Nov 21, 2011 List rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my absolute favorites. Reading this takes courage, and Gregory Orr had so much to write it and live it.
Apr 22, 2014 Krista rated it really liked it
Local poet/professor. The story of his early family turmoil and experience as a Civil Rights demonstrator in the South.
May 22, 2007 Joe rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007
The first few chapters of this book are the most poetic prose I've ever read.
Jun 23, 2008 Alina rated it really liked it
Gorgeously depressing.
Imey Juliant
Jan 13, 2008 Imey Juliant rated it really liked it
good true story,
berisikan kekuatan dan cinta kasih yang tak terpatahkan,
bagaimana menemukan kembali jiwa yang hampir hilang dan memandang semua kejadian adalah anugrah dari Tuhan.
Gary McDowell
Jul 04, 2007 Gary McDowell rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-ones
Incredible. The last two chapters almost had me in tears. Beautifully written, beautifully realized.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere: a Memoir
  • A Private History of Awe
  • Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters
  • The Exact Place: a memoir
  • Poetry and the Age
  • Baudelaire
  • The Delicacy and Strength of Lace: Letters Between Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright
  • Letters To Yesenin
  • The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir
  • The Widening Spell of the Leaves
  • In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country
  • Answering Back: Living Poets Reply to the Poetry of the Past
  • On Poetry
  • The Virgin of Bennington
  • The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry
  • Earth House Hold
  • Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé: The Correspondence
  • The Florist's Daughter
Gregory Orr was born in Albany, New York in 1947, and grew up in the rural Hudson Valley. He received a BA degree from Antioch College in 1969 and an MFA from Columbia University in 1972.

He is the author of more than ten collections of poetry, including River Inside the River: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2013); How Beautiful the Beloved (Copper Canyon Press, 2009); Concerning the Book that is the Body of
More about Gregory Orr...

Share This Book