Review of Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.'s Kitchen Table Wisdon: Stories That Heal

1996: published by Riverhead Books

Summer 1998

by Kathleen Flynn

Editor’s Note: Kathleen has two children, Brendan and Devin. She is CFRI’s current Board President and has served as CFRI News’ Editor-in-Chief. Kathleen frequently contributes eloquent reviews of "books that heal."

I loved this book! Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal is one of those rare finds that I wished would never come to an end. The author, Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., puts together a collection of stories that are truly healing. The stories are arranged under broad headings, so there is a sense of cohesion, purpose and direction to the collection. Each is taken from her life experiences as well as her medical practice (she is currently a counselor and specialized for years in pediatric medicine.) It is especially refreshing and affirming that these stories come from the pen of an M.D. I gathered enormous insight into the reasoning and practices of the Western medical professionals. In fact, I began to feel empathy for my son’s doctors. But Remen also brings with her the complimentary perspective of a chronically ill person, having been diagnosed herself with Crohn’s disease at the age of 17.

All of the stories in this collection are short and profound. Occasionally, one was so good I had to stop reading so I could spend some time in contemplation, absorbing and savoring it, or filing it away in my mind as a balm for some future ill. Ultimately, these are lessons about living. Therefore, this book would be highly interesting to anyone who has experienced any kind of loss or pain. But it is especially noteworthy to our CF community because Remen explores illness and the pain of diagnosis and how it affects our own attitude, prognosis, how we live, and the change it brings to the lives of those around us. Story after story expressed the enormous potential we have for living more fully–in greater health and with more joy, paradoxically, in the face of illness and loss.

I read passages of this book aloud to my husband and my children. There was always a moment of silence when I finished reading, as if in reverence to the images and feelings the author had evoked. Sometimes we talked, and sometimes there was just a collective Hmmmm, or Wow! Reading this book is a delightful invitation to explore the seeds of transformation. I would recommend it to anyone. ENJOY!

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