Book Review – Kitchen Table Wisdom

Kitchen Table Wisdom 
by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.
Riverhead Books
(c) 1996 Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

We all know the power of story. Stories can inspire, inform, disturb, enlighten,
and frighten. Perhaps the most powerful stories are those that are rooted in the
shared experiences of the readers. When we as readers find ourselves affected
and touched in some way by the story of another's experiences, we have, in a
way, shared the emotions of joy and sorrow which often shape our lives as human

Stories that convey such emotional meaning carry with them the potential for
healing to those who read and allow themselves to be touched by them. Such is
the case with Kitchen Table Wisdom, a collection of stories about healing,
loving, and growing by Rachel Naomi Remen.

Remen has been active in the area of mind/body healing work for many years. She
is perhaps best known as a co-founder and medical director of the Commonweal
Cancer Help Program which was featured on Bill Moyer's PBS special, "Healing and
the Mind."

Remen is known for her direct and humane approach to the process of healing and
has received many accolades for her work with the terminally ill. Few people
could be said to have a better grasp of the concept of healing than Remen. As a
physician, professor of medicine, therapist, and long-time survivor of chronic
illness, Remen knows the good, the bad, and the ugly of healing on virtually
every level of human experience.

Kitchen Table Wisdom is a superb collection of stories compiled by Remen which
highlight, in a very personal way, the common language of healing. By this I
mean healing as a process of "making whole again;" the desire so many of us
share to be happier, healthier, whole human beings.

These stories are poignant, inspirational, sometimes painful, but always honest
and humane. Although some of the stories pull at the heart strings, the overall
message of the book is one that inspires a certain faith in the human spirit,
and in the sometimes mysterious aspects of healing which ultimately touch us
all. As Jon Kabat-Zinn said of the book, "I laughed and cried my way through it
from beginning to end."

As told by Remen, these remarkable stories take on a meaning far deeper than
mere "human interest" journalism. Her insights into the experiences she
describes provide the reader with a depth of understanding which is often
understood emotionally more than intellectually. In the process, Remen teaches
lesson after lesson about healing in a natural, direct, and compassionate way
that speaks to the heart of the reader. These are not merely stories "about
healing," but are stories that heal through their own telling.

Remen clearly views healing as a kind of journey of the spirit. She makes no
real distinction between physical, psychological, or emotional healing because
she recognizes the inherent connectedness between all these aspects of life. Her
commentary throughout the book is graceful, yet to the point. She displays her
knowledge of healing as a physician. But more importantly, she shows that
healing isn't as much about doctors, surgeries, and medicine as much as it is
about meaning, faith, and courage.

From the Foreword by Dean Ornish, M.D: "Suffering - whether physical, emotional,
spiritual, or as often the case, all three - can be a doorway to transformation.
As we move to the end of the century and millennium, our personal suffering is
sometimes worsened by the lack of communication and community. Illness often
intensifies these feelings of isolation. Telling stories can be healing. We all
have within us access to a greater wisdom, and we may not even know that until
we speak out loud."

Kitchen Table Wisdom will allow you access to this "greater wisdom" Ornish
mentions, through the eyes of one of the most authentic and compassionate
healers of our time.


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