THE RULES OF INHERITANCE by Claire Bidwell Smith


A Memoir
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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.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59463-088-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Hudson Street/Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2011


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