Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review: The Rules of Inheritance

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The Rules of InheritanceThe Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**This review is based on a digital galley provided by the publisher via NetGalley.**
The only time I regret spending on this book is the time I spent avoiding it. I added it to my NetGalley requests one evening when I was on one of my crazy searches for what could be "the next big thing" and I had to make sure that if it was out there that I could review it. The Rules of Inheritance sounded promising.

Claire Bidwell Smith takes us on a cyclic journey through her grieving and healing process. Her parents were diagnosed with cancer within months of each other while she was still in high school. Within her first year of college, her mother died, and she had no idea how to cope with the void in her life where her mother used to be. The Rules of Inheritance contains so many passages that I want to share, but this passage resonated the strongest with me, "I write her a letter on the one-year anniversary of her dead. Dear Mom, I don't know how to be without you. Please come back."

Since Joan Didion's memoirs about the death or her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking followed by the tragic death of her daughter, Blue Nights, it's hard not to compare any memoir with death and dying at its core to hers. However, what kept me reading Smith into the night and through this afternoon was the way her honest and compassionate voice highlights the grief all of us experience not just when we lose someone, but when we change. The hardest person to find when you think you've lost everything is yourself, and going from childhood to adulthood, all of us need to face that challenge. We have to learn how to sit alone with our thoughts; how to stop doing the things that hurt us; how to forgive. We also have to come to terms with our own mortality. As Nietzsche put it, " [W]hen you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." It's hard to watch someone die and scary to even find out someone has passed away not just because we grieve the loss, but because it's a reminder that our own time is limited.

I hope that Claire Bidwell Smith continues her work as an author and grief counselor. Everyone should read this book. It's one of the most beautiful books I've ever read.

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