The Rules of Inheritance

The Rules of Inheritance

4.2 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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Meet the Author

Claire Bidwell Smith is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. She writes for The Huffington Post, Blackbook, Yoga Journal, Chicago Public Radio, and the award-winning blog clairebidwellsmith.com.

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The Rules of Inheritance 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
LaurenNY More than 1 year ago
Claire's memoir is an amazing story of a young girl who's life is touched by cancer when she is a teenager through her early twenties, loosing both mother and father to the disease by the time she's 22. Through painful paths, relationships, living and rebelling this coming of age story tells the story of a woman who is coming into her life with the heavy weight of doing it alone. It will rock you to your core and in the end give you a sense of healing. I highly highly recommend this book!
T_Nation More than 1 year ago
This was one of the extremely moving and honest books I have read in a long time. It is a must read for anyone who is looking to be inspired and find strength. There is no words to describe how moving it is to read about loss and love from such an honest and vulnerable author. I have known Claire for years and it she continues to amaze me with everything she writes. This book truly inspired me to be a better friend, daughter, sister, and mother and to appreciate everything I have.
CarrollM More than 1 year ago
Despite my intention to let it wait, instead of too much turkey, I devoured an advance copy of Claire¿s book, in stolen moments over half of a family-filled holiday weekend. ¿Edgy¿. ¿Gritty¿. ¿Poignant¿. ¿Brave¿. ¿Remarkable¿. ¿Raw¿. ¿Searingly-honest¿. ¿Un-put-downable¿. These words are sure to be used over and over again in the rave reviews inevitably to come for this remarkable piece of writing. Those familiar with her blog may well assume ¿Ah, I read along as this whole thing was unfolding. I know the story. I know the ending.¿ But whether we happen to know Claire or not, we know the ending ¿ she tells us herself part way through the beginning. Unlike many other blog-to-book authors, Claire has managed to transform her story from as-it-happened to as-it-needed-to-be-written in a manner which clearly also transformed the author herself. We witnesses to the story as it unfolded, might not have realized that we were witnessing another metamorphosis entirely. The cliché ¿things happen for a reason¿ is ¿trite but true¿¿for a reason. Who would Claire have been had this story not been hers? We will never know, nor will she. But those who discover and tumble along through her riveting account of this amazing journey will be forever seared by the ¿¿realness¿ of the experience. This memoir simply will not wait. No one who loves good writing should wait to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want to read a sad, depressing book, this is for you. You will cry and cry. I am an adult woman, my mom died ten years ago. It was awful. But what this young woman went through broke my heart. I wish I never read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Has i known this book was a memoir when i purchased on my e-reader I would have known better than to expect a happy or enlightening conclusion! The author takes on a miserable journey of the illness and subsequent deaths of her parents-we find this out very early on and have to endure the exteme sadness of her situation time and time again, The out of sequencing of the timeline makes it worse, like a macabre Groundhog Day, For me this only brought up the extreme sadness I experienced when my own parents died-With nothing to cheer for I just slogged through to the last two or three pages where the author is happily married with a new child, There is no where near the balance needed to make a reader endure such sadness page after page after page-You owe me another 200 pages where I get to see that in the end you are okay and how/why this occurs! The writer is an exellent one and maybe she needed to write this story for herself, Personally I think she has the talent to attract a large audience but this book did not demonstrate it at all-
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing writer with a courageous story. This would be a great read for bookclubs,anyone who is grieving, or college psychology courses.
Anonymous 22 days ago
This book touches you more than you will believe. Well-written and emotionally stirring.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just happened to pick up this book by accident. I am so glad I did...What an amazing, truthful, and beautifully written book !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For any woman who has lost her mother, this is a healing missive. Beautifully painful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written. Heart wrenching story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Claire Bidwell Smith’s stunning debut, The Rules of Inheritance, is a powerful and gripping memoir. When Claire is the tender age of fourteen, both of her parents are diagnosed with cancer within months of each other. As her mother succumbs to the disease while Claire is in college, her life comes crashing in around her. The story is told not in a linear fashion, but rather through the five stages of grief. The author, with tremendous honesty and bravery, examines each stage. As we travel with Claire on this journey, which is simultaneously heart wrenching and inspiring, the reader is forever changed. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever experienced the loss of a loved one. The writing is brilliant and her story is gripping. The Rules of Inheritance wills stay with you long after you read the final, poignant page.
BBR47 More than 1 year ago
The Rules of Inheritance is an honest, at times heart-breaking, and ultimately motivating memoir of a young woman’s loss and her journey to begin to put her life together. While it may be viewed as a passage through the stages of grief, I found that to be a mistaken assumption. To me it represented an amazing story of an eighteen year old adrift, who finally finds her place in life despite significant odds that she would fall victim to a much worse fate. Ultimately, she even writes a book about it all, proving to us that she is a survivor. Thoughtful, honest and revealing.
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Vivi45 More than 1 year ago
This memoir was quite boring. The author could not stop grieving over the death of her parents,smokes heavily, becomes an alcoholic then finds happiness with a new man. I did not like the way she jumped around time- wise in this book. It started out strong but then became very difficult to finish....but I did.