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My grandfather's blessings: stories of strength, refuge, and belonging

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  2,056 Ratings  ·  318 Reviews
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 ...more
Published April 2nd 2001 by Thorsons (first published April 1st 2001)
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Elizabeth Pinborough
Jun 10, 2007 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
Nov 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Olivia by: Anika
This book contains some lovely true stories and insights. Based on the title, I wouldn't have expected to like it. But actually only a small portion of the book is about the author's grandfather. The majority of the book is 2-3 page chapters telling stories about something that happened to the author or someone she knows.

The author, Remen, is a doctor who counsels people with cancer and has had a life-long chronic illness herself. Because of this, she has spent a lot of time thinking about what
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
May 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 added it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I have probably read this at least 5 times, starting the summer between my first and second year of college sitting by the pool in Puerto Rico (ahhhh). Anyway, this book is full of great stories that make you laugh, cry and think. I LOVE IT. She ties in her memories of her grandfather and things he taught her with how it changed the way she interacts with her patients (she does therapy/counseling for terminally ill patients - mostly cancer). I love t ...more
Karen Mcintyre
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Erin Isgett
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book so, so much. There are dozens and dozens of short sections that address so many parts of life, death, family, medicine, the mind-body is just fantastic. The experiences of various people are shared, along with lessons learned from parents and grandparents, and from the author's own professional life. This is the kind of book that I'd like to read a section from each day so that I could really think, ponder, and apply the lessons learned. I definitely recommend t ...more
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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."
Sep 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Oh, man. I loved, loved, loved this book. My sister has been telling me to read this book for years and I'm glad I finally borrowed it. I so enjoyed the stories, wisdom and vulnerable truths found within. I wanted to mark and share so many parts with friends. I can't recommend this book enough if you have any interest in mind/body connections, faith, medicine or all the above. It's not too granola, churchy or new-agey--it's just right. I want to re-read it now that I'm finished.
Sandra Strange
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.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Libby Ames
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 taught her that blessing one another is what fills our emptiness, heals our loneliness, and connects us more deeply to life.

Life h
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book I have turned to again and again over the years when I have needed wise words of wisdom.
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
After reading this, I feel I've been on a spiritual retreat. Rachel Naomi Remen shares the lessons learned from her grandfather and the wisdom she's gained throughout her career. Rachel began her career as a pediatrician and switched paths to counsel terminally ill patients, as well as to lead retreats for healthcare providers and staff.

The chapters are short and each covers a different patient/situation. So, it's an easy book to pick up, read a bit, and put back down, allowing each chapter's wi
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
zen Tao
Aug 12, 2010 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
Warren Rochelle
Jan 17, 2014 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
Joe Henry
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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. ” 70 likes
“Our purpose in life is to grow in wisdom and in love.” 25 likes
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