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

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

Rachel Naomi Remen. Riverhead Books, $24.95 (382pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-150-4

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. (Apr.)