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The Rules of Inheritance [Hardcover]

Claire Bidwell Smith
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)


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Book Description

February 2, 2012
A coming-of-age story that is both heartbreaking and exhilarating.

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.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Smith lost both parents to cancer as a young adult. In this searing, devastating, and ultimately cathartic memoir, Smith uses Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ well-known five stages of grief as a narrative framework, beginning with denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and ending with acceptance, as she moves back and forth chronologically in time. It is brutally honest as she becomes overwhelmed by grief and by the state of being “parentless.” She falls into a depressive funk. A car accident reminds her that she has no one to call when something like this happens. She drinks too much. She finds little reason to exist. Hearing Dave Eggers read from his best-selling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), another memoir of loss, is a turning point in her recovery, as she becomes a volunteer coordinator at the Los Angeles branch of Eggers’ 826 Valencia Project, a nonprofit organization that helps children and adults develop writing skills. Today, Smith is a bereavement counselor. By facilitating grief groups, running workshops, and conducting one-on-one counseling sessions, she has come around, as she puts it, to the other side of grief. A powerful, moving memoir of overcoming grief and loss. --June Sawyers

Review

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 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

A brave and intelligent book about big loss and even bigger love. The gritty truth and hard won grace in this beautiful memoir astonishes me. -Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author of WILD

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. 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 lamentaion, 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

"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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hudson Street Press (February 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594630887
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594630880
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,438,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Claire Bidwell Smith is the author of The Rules of Inheritance (Penguin, 2012) andAfter This (Penguin, 2015). The Rules of Inheritance has been published in 17 countries and is currently being adapted for film.

Claire has a masters degree in clinical psychology and is a therapist specializing in grief. She regularly teaches writing workshops and gives talks on both writing and grief. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The Huffington Post, Slate, Salon.com, Chicago Public Radio and BlackBook. She lives in Los Angeles with her two daughters. www.clairebidwellsmith.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, Reflective, Cleansing, Healing February 5, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have been told that losing a parent is probably one of the most profound losses that a person will experience in their lives. Now I know what this loss feels like. Claire Bidwell-Smith's eloquent and honest memoir has been a true gift, a blessing, and a healing process for me as I try to understand my own journey and grieve the most recent passing of my own father. The kinship the author creates for her readers is absolutely stunning. I felt as if I was receiving my own personal grief counseling. I cried. I laughed. I felt inspired to be a better person, friend and mother. This is a must read for anyone who has experienced losing a parent and found themselves feeling lost, alone and empty. My life has been forever blessed in so many ways by this author's brilliantly written and very personal journey.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave, Honest, Compelling February 2, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I pre-ordered this book months ago. When I woke up this morning I had received an email that it had been downloaded to my kindle. I began devouring it early this morning as I'd been eagerly anticipating it's arrival since the author told me about it last year--when she was my and my late-husband's grief counselor in hospice.

Claire Bidwell Smith is as bright and eloquent in print as in person. In this memoir Bidwell Smith takes us through her journey of grief as both of her parents are diagnosed with--and sequentially taken by cancer--when she was a teen and young adult--and a serpentine journey it is! Brutally honest, sparing no details of ill-conceived decisions made out of denial and unwillingness to accept what she has either lost--or was losing at the time--was heart wrenching.

But the clarity and perspective from which this story is told hints from the beginning at an inevitable understanding somewhere down the line. It really tinges the whole story in a framework which keeps you turning the page, desperate to find out what this young woman does next as she copes with such devastating loss, and hoping she'll find the answers she is searching for.

I could't put this book down.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful memoir February 2, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This memoir is an incredibly sad one in which the author's parents both die from cancer by the time she is 25. It is a story of love and loss, numbing heartache and rebuilding a life through the grief. Although she stumbles for years, attempting to navigate through life with a giant gaping hole that permeates her entire being, she is able to emerge from the fog a strong and confident woman.

It is a fast read, gripping and heart pounding. Be prepared to finish the entire book in a sitting or two. And then read it again.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brave, beautiful memoir that draws the reader in February 5, 2012
Format:Hardcover
The morning this book was released I found myself reading the whole thing, unable to put it down. This book is quite simply one young woman's journey through the heartbreaking loss of both of her parents at an age when she was still unsure of who she was and who she would become. Claire's powerful and poetic words weave a story that draws the reader in. Several times I was overcome with emotion and had to pause as my eyes blurred with tears. In the end what struck me the most about this book was the powerful simplicity of pure human connection coupled with both the strength and fragility of the human spirit. Claire's tenacity as she works through the stages of grief is both brave and beautiful. This book is a truly amazing piece of art that has the ability to touch lives and inspire others to find their own path through grief to a place of healing.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
"I still remember that first summer after my mom died, leaning my young body up against the bar. The unusual taste of a gin and tonic. The slow warmth that spread through me. The way it dulled the grief and eased the fear." These are the words of Claire Bidwell Smith, a grief counselor who has walked the walk. Her mother and father were diagnosed with cancer when she was 14, and all three lived in the shadow of death throughout her youth. Both died when she was still a young woman. She coped, but not always in the best ways.

Smith's parents were courageous, intelligent, creative people who did the best they could to give their only child a hopeful outlook, the will to set goals and follow through. But that was hard --- at times too hard --- for a barely grown-up person to get a handle on. Her mother passed when Smith was just 18; a year later, she was involved in a needy relationship with an emotionally distant man and had an abortion. By the time her father died, she was well on her way to alcoholism. Smith recalls, "I kept waiting for someone more grown up than me to appear and take over." She careened from bar to bar and man to man, trying to figure out how to find the adult she needed to become. She traveled and became a writer, but lived essentially alone inside her sad, wretched mind.

THE RULES OF INHERITANCE is a memoir in five parts, each one based on one of the phases of grief identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. in her seminal work, ON DEATH AND DYING: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are applicable to the close friends and family of a dying person as well as to the individual dealing with terminal illness.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and hopeful grief memoir
My dad died almost a year ago and this book was exactly what I needed. It is a brutally honest account of a young woman dealing with the loss of both her parents. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Katie Gillespie
5.0 out of 5 stars A gifted writer who pulls you into her her journey of grief and then...
Claire is such a gifted writer. I lost my mom when I was 18 too. I recognized the shame and regret one feels, wishing I had been a better daughter. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lucille Zimmerman
5.0 out of 5 stars What an Amazing Book ...
This is one of the BEST books I have ever read! The author's use of the English language and the emotions and feelings she brings forth are so beautiful. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Contrived, annoying and unauthentic
I found this book to be just full of contrived stories of a self-centered, narcissistic and bratty girl/woman. Read more
Published 4 months ago by K_312
5.0 out of 5 stars RAW, EXPOSED, AND BRAVE TRUTHS ON ONE WOMAN'S GRIEF JOURNEY!
The Rules of Inheritance is a painful yet insightful look into Ms. Smith's journey through grief. It's HER TRUTHS about how she dealt with the loss of both parents and how she... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A truly inspiring story
Published 5 months ago by Marcus P. Lopez
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
Amazing story of heartbreak for a young woman that dealt with the loss of her parents. Shows how she turned that heartbreak around and used her grief to help others.
Published 5 months ago by chew
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Self-Pity and Whining
Not a fun read by any means. Grief is a horrible fact of life and this is a story of a woman who wallowed in it, abused herself, and felt sorry for herself for more years thatn I... Read more
Published 6 months ago by S. Chase
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
This book was left by a guest in our vacation rental. I happened across it while searching the shelves for a bedtime read. I was skeptical, but decided to give it a shot. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Kimberly K. Henrie
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It was an easy read and the authors thoughts had a way of connecting with me, even though I've never experienced great loss. Read more
Published 6 months ago by LYNN VRAHAS COLEMAN
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