Review: The Beauty of What Remains

The Beauty of What Remains

The Beauty of What Remains
By Steve Leder
Avery, 9780593187555, January 2021, 240pp.

The Short of It:

I did not expect a book about death and grief to be one of my favorite reads of the year.

The Rest of It:

As the senior rabbi of one of the largest synagogues in the world, Steve Leder has learned over and over again the many ways death teaches us how to live and love more deeply by showing us not only what is gone but also the beauty of what remains. ~ Indiebound

The Beauty of What Remains is my book club’s pick for March. When I picked it up, I really had to push myself to read a book that is essentially about death and the grief that follows it. Death is depressing to me. It’s probably depressing to most people but this book is incredibly uplifting and hopeful. Leder, having sat by thousands of deathbeds as a rabbi knows a thing or two about death but it never really dawned on him what true grieving was until his own father passed away from Alzheimer’s a few years ago.

Death is a great teacher if it impels us to serve the living. ~ Steve Leder

Through anecdotes and real life experiences from those who have sought his counsel, Leder provides a revelatory look at how death can look to loved ones who are forced to face it. It doesn’t have to be the sad, depressing life passage that we’ve come to expect. Leder provides a different viewpoint, one that focuses on the good and his easy, affable way is like the hug you never knew you needed.

“We are helpless in death, but we are not helpless in life.” ~ Steve Leder

I’ve heard countless times how people need comfort reads right now. This pandemic is finally showing signs of moving on and yet, we are still a little raw and on edge. Comfort reads, food, the warm embrace of a loved one (once vaccinated) are all things we need right now. If you don’t think you can get anything out of this book because you haven’t lost anyone recently, think again. Leder’s writing can help you through any loss and we have all experienced loss lately. He has this amazing way of putting things. I would love to just sit in a room with him and listen to him talk. Here’s a clip from the Today show that effectively illustrates what I mean.

The Beauty of What Remains is a beautiful book. It’s funny and hopeful and a valuable resource for anyone who has ever wondered what to say to a friend after they’ve lost a parent or a child. It’s filled with heartwarming examples of how loved ones can be honored before and after death and includes very practical information for anyone who has to plan a funeral or a celebration of life. This stuff is gold. I never thought a book like this would end up on my list of faves for the year but it’s earned a spot on it. I highly recommend it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

12 thoughts on “Review: The Beauty of What Remains”

  1. This sounds like an uplifting read! I might be interested in it, as long as it doesn’t have too much of a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” feel to it.

    1. Oh God, no. No Chicken Soup for the Soul here. There are so many things I highlighted. The quotes alone could be a book.

  2. Death is one of those difficult topics for most people and I think we’re afraid of even talking about it. Having a book like this one is great to get people thinking about death in different ways, perhaps not being so afraid of it, and thinking about it.

  3. WoW! Lucky bookgroup pick- I love when that happens. It happened to me this month with The BookWoman of Troublesome Creek ( no review yet but such a good story).

    1. So you liked Troublesome Creek? I need to look into that one. I’ve heard of it, of course. Oh yes, this book about grief was pretty amazing. I imagine we will have plenty to talk about when we meet.

  4. This sounds amazing! The last book on grief that moved me was Meghan O’Rourke’s The Long Goodbye. I read it at a time when I experienced a loss so the book came to me at the right time. I’m curious about this one now.

    1. It’s the kind of book you want to give to someone who is experiencing grief or about to be. Dementia is a topic in here as well. I wish this book had been around when my parents passed away one after the other from horrible circumstances.

      There are phrases that I highlighted that I will use when trying to soothe a person who is suffering a loss.

  5. Good to know. I always find myself surprised that I’m surprised how good grief books can be. I even have a category in gr for grief because I think it is good to remind me as a resource.

    I picked up a poetry book and didn’t really look at the ‘theme’ — it is a collection of poems written by a grieving mother of a daughter who was murdered. WHY would I want to read this?! Why wouldn’t I? these are powerful and I am letting the universe guide me. If nothing else, I’m a witness to her and her daughter’s life. And I’m good with that.

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