The Rules of Inheritance

The Rules of Inheritance

4.1 21
by Claire Bidwell Smith
     
 

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A 2012 Books for a Better Life nominee
A resonant memoir of the ways untimely good-byes echo through the years by a writer who has considered every nuance of grief.

At age fourteen, Claire Bidwell Smith-an only child- learned that both of her parents had cancer. The fear of becoming a family of one before she came of age compels Claire to make a series

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Overview

A 2012 Books for a Better Life nominee
A resonant memoir of the ways untimely good-byes echo through the years by a writer who has considered every nuance of grief.

At age fourteen, Claire Bidwell Smith-an only child- learned that both of her parents had cancer. The fear of becoming a family of one before she came of age compels Claire to make a series of fraught choices, set against the glittering backdrop of New York and Los Angeles - and the pall of regret. When the inevitable happens, and Claire is alone in the world, she is inconsolable at the revelation that suddenly she is no one's special person. It is only when Claire eventually falls in love, marries, and becomes a mother that she emerges from the fog of grief.

Defying a conventional framework, this story is told using the five stages of grief as a window into Smith's experience. As in the very best memoirs, the author's powerful and exquisite writing renders personal events into universal experience.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this deeply reflective, anguished memoir, L.A. journalist and psychotherapist Smith revisits the staggered death of her two parents from cancer as steps in the process of grieving. Using epigraphs from the seminal work on death and dying from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in naming her sections (e.g., “Denial,” “Bargaining”), Smith moves back and forth in time to explore the intensity of losing her parents, from her mother’s death after a long bout with colon cancer in 1996, just a few weeks into Smith’s freshman year at Howland College, in Vermont, to the death of her father in hospice in 2003, when she was 25. The author fashions her detailed story with an unflinching directness that is both riveting and monotonous, her paragraphs separated by a space as if to allow one to breathe between them. At age 18, she was barely away from the “drama” of her Atlanta home life, where her mother had been in treatment intermittently over four years while her much older father had tried to keep the family together, when painful news of her mother’s death struck: Smith hadn’t made it home that night; she had stayed over with a boy. The guilt and anger propelled her to quit Howland, move to New York, then L.A. with the boyfriend, Colin, recognizing after six years that she wasn’t in love. Smith’s prose possesses a blistering power, rendering this youthful memoir an affecting journey into loss. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"Gritty, poetic, and illuminating." –O Magazine

"A brilliant memoir." –BookReporter

"A powerful, moving memoir of overcoming grief and loss." –Booklist, Starred Review

"In this deeply reflective, anguished memoir, L.A. journalist and psychotherapist Smith revisits the staggered death of her two parents from cancer as steps in the process of grieving.Smith's prose possesses a blistering power, rendering this youthful memoir an affecting journey into loss." –Publisher's Weekly

"Vivid, real and gripping." –BlackBook Magazine

"This beautiful memoir is about what we inherit–the love as well as the sorrow and loss that are an inevitable part of human connection. In lucid, unsentimental prose, Claire Bidwell Smith maps out the story of her abrupt and rocky coming-of-age with just the right amount of intimacy and distance. This book will stay with me." –Dani Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of Devotion

"Claire Bidwell Smith has written a beautiful book; it's a perfectly crafted story - not about grief, but how to walk out of grief with your soul intact; it's not a lamentation, but a lesson. The Rules of Inheritance should be required reading for anybody who's trying to get their arms around a big sadness." –Darin Strauss, Author of Half a Life

"Forget everything you think you know about grief. Smith's memoir is the most honest book I've ever read about how loss unmoors, challenges and changes you, written in prose so exquisite it could be poetry. Dazzlingly brave and absolutely true." –Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

"In The Rules of Inheritance, Claire Bidwell Smith takes us on a heartbreaking journey into grief's deepest waters and then shows us how she found her way back to hope's shores. With courageous vulnerability and uncompromising authenticity, Smith demonstrates how she transformed tragic misfortune into a rite of passage." –Jillian Lauren, author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

"A searingly honest, poignant and poetic chronicle of love and loss, examining what it feels like to be ‘nobody's most important person.'" –Susan Shapiro, author of Lighting Up and Five Men Who Broke My Heart


"The Rules of Inheritance
is a graceful and gritty, and ultimately quite uplifting, exploration of grief. Smith writes gorgeously about the existential tug between life and death, hope and fear, honesty and escape that defined more than a decade of her young life. At once profoundly personal and exquisitely universal, this story will touch all of us, not just those of us who have faced similar losses." –Aidan Donnelly Rowley, author of Life After Yes

"Written in a fluid, arresting style that grabs the reader and won't let go, The Rules of Inheritance serves as a reminder that we are not only capable of descending to the depths of human experience, but that we can rise back up again. It's a great book." -James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces

Kirkus Reviews
A young psychotherapist's nonlinear debut memoir describing myriad personal tragedies including the deaths of both parents. Now in her early 30s, Smith lost her mother to cancer during her first year at college, and her father seven years later. An only child, she spent years struggling to come to terms with their deaths while trying to soothe her permanent sense of loneliness. The narrative jumps around in time, intercutting chapters about her teenage years with scenes from her 20s, when she lived first in New York and later in Los Angeles. She also recounts other tragedies, including her abortion and subsequent sadness, a years-long terrifying romantic relationship, her growing dependency on alcohol, her best friend's death from leukemia, her stint working for a myopically selfish magazine editor and traveling on a train in front of which a stranger jumped and died. The material is dark, no question, and some of Smith's revelations are hackneyed ("Grief is like another country"). But her voice is compelling, and the choice to write only in the present tense, even for years long past, works to heighten the scenes' emotional immediacy. Many of the chapters are preceded by lines written by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whose studies on the stages of grief have clearly impacted Smith. Ultimately, her memoir bears a strong resemblance to great blog-writing: simultaneously self-indulgent and, at times, surprisingly affecting. Recommended for adults in their teens, 20s and 30s who are interested in stories of loss and the aftermath of a parent's death.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594630880
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/02/2012
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are saying about this

Darin Strauss
Claire Bidwell Smith has written a beautiful book; it's a perfectly crafted story — not about grief, but how to walk out of grief with your soul intact; it's not a lamentation, but a lesson. The Rules of Inheritance should be required reading for anybody who's trying to get their arms around a big sadness. (Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life)
James Frey
Written in a fluid, arresting style that grabs the reader and won't let go, The Rules of Inheritance serves as a reminder that we are not only capable of descending to the depths of human experience, but that we can rise back up again. It's a great book. (James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces)
Jillian Lauren
In The Rules of Inheritance Claire takes us on a heartbreaking journey into grief's deepest waters and then shows us how she found her way back to hope's shores. With courageous vulnerability and uncompromising authenticity, Smith transforms tragic misfortune into a rite of passage. (Jillian Lauren, author of Some Girls: My Life in a Harem)
Aidan Donnelly Rowley
Graceful and gritty, and ultimately uplifting. Smith writes gorgeously about the existential tug between life and death that defined her young life. Profoundly personal and exquisitely universal, this story will touch all of us, not just those of us who have faced similar losses. (Aidan Donnelly Rowley, author of Life After Yes)
From the Publisher
"Written in a fluid, arresting style that grabs the reader and won't let go, The Rules of Inheritance serves as a reminder that we are not only capable of descending to the depths of human experience, but that we can rise back up again. It’s a great book." —James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces
Susan Shapiro
A searingly honest, poignant and poetic chronicle of love and loss, examining what it feels like to be "nobody's most important person." (Susan Shapiro, author of Lighting Up and Five Men Who Broke My Heart)
Caroline Leavitt
Forget everything you think you know about grief. Smith's memoir is the most honest book I've ever read about how loss unmoors, challenges and changes you, written in prose so exquisite, it could be poetry. Dazzlingly brave and absolutely true. (Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You)

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