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

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,760 ratings  ·  403 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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 ·  2,760 ratings  ·  403 reviews

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Elizabeth Pinborough
"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
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
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. ...more
Kristin Traylor
Nov 17, 2015 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.
Feb 21, 2008 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
Oct 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 09, 2009 added it
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
Erin Isgett
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 connection...it 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
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I used this book as a “before sleep” devotional, reading a short chapter or two and pondering the message. I found that I’ve noted several passages to go back to and think about more. It is not a religious book, but Dr. Remen’s grandfather was a Jewish rabbi and much of her reflection stems from his teachings to her as a young child. That in itself is interesting as I learned a number of things about the Jewish faith, but primarily I found her work and her insights helpful and timely. Not a book ...more
Sandra Strange
Jun 30, 2010 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.
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Eduardo Santiago
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Near the end, Remen muses on capital-M Mystery:
We have not been raised to cultivate a sense of Mystery. [...] But Mystery does not require action; Mystery requires our attention. Mystery requires that we listen and become open.
Those pages—the whole book, actually—felt curiously relevant to my frame of mind the past few weeks. In fact the way the book came to me is a bit of a Mystery itself involving three events, each improbable on its own, coinciding within just a few days of each other.
C.E. G
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Rachel Naomi Remen is a doctor turned counselor for people living with cancer. There were a lot of beautiful stories in here about her grandfather and her work - I especially loved the parts on blessings and mystery. Sometimes I found the way she talked about people sort of uncomfortable, especially across difference, and wondered how they would feel about her portrayal of them. But one story, "Broken," about a physician who had a lot of anger about his job and colleagues, hit home so ...more
Katie Bromm
Dec 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Dr. Remen is a blessing to us all. Her beautiful and powerful storytelling on her life as a physician, as someone who has a chronic illness, and her experiences working with people with terminal illnesses will always stick with me. This book was a huge comfort to me in how our chronic illnesses can give us the gift to see more clearly on what matters most in life. She does not hide the pain that comes with chronic and terminal illnesses, but her insights on the beauty and awareness that may come ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful book. Gentle and warm and full of insight and encouragement. I think I will need to get my own copy.

There is an interesting mash up of religious teachings, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, mysticism, and it all works together.
Michael-David Sasson
Mar 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaism
This fed my soul and called forth tears to water my heart over and over again. What grew was hope, renewed faith and celebration.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, american
Recommended by Mia Meijer
I don't normally read inspirational books, but Mia had this on her top-ten favorite books, and had a copy to lend. What a surprising book! What a life story Rachel Remen has -- only child of older hard-working professionals. Full of ambition and determination, even after a collapse at age 16 and a diagnosis of Crohn's disease [no cure, bad prognosis].

Her marvelous memories of her wise grandfather's caring for her and nuggets of wisdom [he died when she w
Oct 05, 2012 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
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 27, 2011 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
May 06, 2013 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
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a reread for me. I've left my bookmark in the book because I'm sure I'll be reading it again in a few years. Dr. James Allen, our family doctor, recommended this book years ago and both my husband and myself have read it twice. It's that good! Fist time through we marked passages we especially liked with book darts. This time through I used a yellow marker. I didn't mark passages we'd already book darted and I was surprised at the new items that stood out to me. This is one from the last ...more
Karen Mcintyre
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 13, 2012 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
Nov 16, 2012 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."
Jan 17, 2010 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.
Jan 09, 2011 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! ...more
May 20, 2013 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! ...more
May 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It is time to reread this book. Even though I never reviewed it in 2011, I think back to it often. I have been taught by many people to see my blessings and to live in gratitude; it is time to pass that on.

This book is a treasure of gentle and profound stories of wholeness. It tops the list of books that share insights into wellbeing and wisdom. Do, Do, Do read this book.
May 13, 2013 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! ...more
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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.

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