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The Rules of Inheritanceby Claire Bidwell Smith
Synopses & Reviews
A powerful and searingly honest memoir about a young woman who loses her family but finds herself in the process.
In this astonishing debut, Claire Bidwell Smith, an only child, is just fourteen years old when both of her charismatic parents are diagnosed with cancer. What follows is a coming-of-age story that is both heartbreaking and exhilarating. As Claire hurtles towards loss she throws herself at anything she thinks might help her cope with the weight of this harsh reality: boys, alcohol, traveling, and the anonymity of cities like New York and Los Angeles. By the time she is twenty-five years old they are both gone and Claire is very much alone in the world.
Claire's story is less of a tragic tale and more of a remarkable lesson on how to overcome some of life's greatest hardships. Written with suspense and style, and bursting with love and adventure, The Rules of Inheritance vividly captures the deep grief and surprising light of a young woman forging ahead on a journey of loss that humbled, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
"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 KÃ¼bler-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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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.
About 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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