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The Rules of Inheritance

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,992 Ratings  ·  316 Reviews
Claire Bidwell Smith -- an only child -- was just fourteen years old when both of her parents were diagnosed with cancer within months of each other. "I've already come to the conclusion that I will probably be parentless by the time I am thirty," Claire writes in her powerful debut.

As her mother begins to succumb during Claire's first year of college, Claire hurtles towar
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 2nd 2012 by Penguin Group USA, Inc (first published February 1st 2012)
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Dec 17, 2015 Antigone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
I'll get brave in a bookstore. Brave in a way I won't online. Brave among strangers I consider companions; purpose-filled, pondering, unknown friends who wander, as I do, in that semi-conscious fugue state of an open literary quest. Brave among those who've momentarily traded looking where they're going for thinking their way through. Brave among actual shelves, reaching for an actual volume, scanning an actual flyleaf. Brave carting around ten pounds of literature in a battered plastic basket; ...more
Mar 07, 2012 Jmom88 rated it liked it
I wanted to put the book down after the first chapter. Not that it was badly written or hard to read. I wanted to put it down because the pain is palpable even early on in the book. It’s like a huge wave is coming and you can’t see it but you can feel it rumbling and hear it roaring. It’s coming… and there’s no avoiding it.

Read my complete review on Found Not Lost
Mar 04, 2012 Amy rated it it was amazing
**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
Jul 26, 2012 Mmtimes4 rated it really liked it
Claire Bidwell Smith -- an only child -- was just fourteen years old when both of her parents were diagnosed with cancer within months of each other. "I've already come to the conclusion that I will probably be parentless by the time I am thirty," Claire writes in her powerful debut.

As her mother begins to succumb during Claire's first year of college, Claire hurtles towards loss. She throws herself into the arms of anything she thinks might hold her up: boys, alcohol, traveling, and the anonymi
Joanne  Clarke Gunter
My rating says I "liked" this book, but I didn't like it very much. Perhaps I have read too many memoirs and have just tired of whining women. Lots of whining in this book about her boyfriend, her work, the fact that both of her parents became ill and died (which happened many years before she wrote this book), and everything else in between. However, the thing that annoyed me the most about this book is the fact that it has more one sentence paragraphs than I have ever seen in a book. Page afte ...more
Oct 20, 2011 Nona rated it really liked it
What a beautifully told memoir of Claire’s love for her parents and the untethered feelings she had following the death of her mother. Her honesty in sharing her behavior and reaction to loss and grief was both raw and touching, as she also began to realize that her closeness to her father would not have occurred without the death of her mother. Her superb writing draws you in to her story and leads you to think about the fragility of life and how the touch and presence of another human can make ...more
Sep 19, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
I found my way to this writer via the Rumpus Letters in the Mail, and then came upon her book by accident in a bookstore. Claire Bidwell Smith's letter talked about courage--in life and writing--and how she sourced that courage from her father's life as an unsung war hero. What stuck with me after reading this book--which is really about how the writer deals with the death of both her parents relatively close together--the storyline about her father, their relationship, and the things he gets (a ...more
Jessica Keener
Nov 01, 2012 Jessica Keener rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary memoir about love and life

I read this beautiful, powerful memoir in half a day; unable to stop, devouring Claire's gorgeous words and sentences--crying grateful tears as I read her final chapters. I won't recap what it's about. What I want to say here is that every sentence, every word sings, whispers, shouts with truth and honesty and the potency of love--the love of a child for her parents lost; the love of a child struggling to find her way alone, the love of a child who crie
May 23, 2013 Raquel rated it it was ok
As the two star rating indicates, it was ok. Subject matter is heavy and my heart went out to her but eventually it felt overdone.
Pierced Librarian
Jul 07, 2013 Pierced Librarian rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Every one
Recommended to Pierced Librarian by: Me
pg. 10
I am silent, marveling at the power we have to unlock a person.

I marvel at this story, of such loss and pain, leaving me buoyed with hope and kindness.

Claire tells her story of losing both parents before she was 25 in an unflinching voice. She draws me to her unstable and pained young girl self; making every bad decision one can, while surviving unspeakable loss.

One chapter in, I was frantically trying to do anything but keep reading, but I could not stop. I just wanted to comfort
Ron Stempkowski
Feb 03, 2012 Ron Stempkowski rated it it was amazing
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 she is person. In this memoir Bidwell Smith takes us through her journey of grief as both of her parents are diagno
Wendy Worhle-rodriquez
Feb 05, 2012 Wendy Worhle-rodriquez rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 27, 2014 Kristen rated it it was amazing
To say I identified personally with this book is an understatement. Having lost my parents when I was 14 and 24, it meant so much to me to read a book by someone with similar losses. Losing the anchor of having parents around before you are a fully formed adult yourself drastically changes who you are, or would have been otherwise - like her, "I often wonder who I would be had my parents not died".

I owe a huge thank you to Smith for being so open and honest about her grieving - it's something I
Amy M
Jul 29, 2012 Amy M rated it really liked it
4.5. A beautifully-told memoir about a woman's love for her parents. At age 14, both of Claire's parents were diagnosed with cancer. Yet she remains a pretty ordinary girl, doing & feeling pretty ordinary things. I was struck by her pain & brutal honesty that she felt she failed her mom & should have been a better daughter. Yet she does admit that had her mother not died first, she would have never developed the close relationship with her father that formed when it was just the two ...more
Christine Frank
Nov 28, 2011 Christine Frank rated it it was amazing
By happenstance, this is the third memoir in a month by professional writers who have something happen to them and move to or already live in New York, and abuse substances and may or may not come out the better for it. And this is the best one, with the most admirable "character", with the most, oh, redeemed/fixed/came out the other end a better person?

As someone who also lost her mother at age 18, I completely get this tale. There are some wonderful passages about loss and the slow, slow accep
Jan 04, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this will be a book I'll come back to again and again. I feel solidarity with Claire--I was born to older parents, with much older siblings, and raised as if an only child. Both parents have gone through serious health scares but have come through, though I know I'll be touched by loss sooner or later, in one way or another. We all are. The portrait of Claire's journey is moving, and I admire her honesty and her big heart. She's turned the blackness of her grief to gold, through writing ...more
Dec 28, 2014 Cathy rated it it was amazing
I've read many books about loss, and The Rules of Inheritance quickly became my favorite book about this difficult topic. Reading Claire Bidwell Smith's account of her grieving process brought back many painful memories because of how similar some of my experiences were to hers. I didn't mind taking that emotional journey, however, because it can be so rare to relate so deeply to someone elses story like that. I loved hearing about her personal experiences and how she described it all with such ...more
Suzanne Morrison
Mar 12, 2012 Suzanne Morrison rated it it was amazing
I stayed up all night in order to finish this beautiful book. It's such a huge accomplishment for a debut; it's gorgeously written, yet feels as if the writer is sitting next to you telling you her tale. It's told in a non-linear, non-chronological structure, but it moves fluidly towards a stunning climax that is at once heartwrenching and redemptive. The story is about what happens when, at twenty-five, having lost both her parents, Claire realizes she is 'nobody's important person.' The reader ...more
Jan 16, 2013 Kimmie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: all-owned-books, 2013
My boyfriend handed me this book and said, "You're going to cry, but you need to read this." He was highly correct on both accounts. The story resonated a little too well with me, yet that's exactly what I needed to understand how un-alone I am in facing a similar parental situation to the author's. I love how the book is divided into the stages of the grieving process, but it's not in chronological order because we don't necessarily go through stages in a particular order. If I ever get the opp ...more
Rebecca Bredenhof
Jun 17, 2013 Rebecca Bredenhof rated it it was amazing
Just happened to see this book on the shelf, and the jacket piqued my interest. It's about a girl/young woman who loses first her mother, and then her father, to cancer. This book was so sad, but so good. Her writing of her journey through grief was so real, and I found myself so connected to the author in so many places. You will cry your eyes out, but it's a worthwhile read. I highly recommend this book if you've ever lost someone you love, or even if you want to understand a little better wha ...more
Julie Ekkers
Aug 21, 2015 Julie Ekkers rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
The Rules of Inheritance is a grief memoir. The author lost both parents to cancer--her mother when she was a freshman in college and her father by the time she was 25. These loses were made more acute by the fact of her youth and by the fact that she was the only child of a May-December union. She had step-siblings, but they were from her father's first marriage and double her age--in completely different life stages. So the author came of age while shouldering some significant losses and witho ...more
May 14, 2015 Dayla rated it really liked it
Growing up in a home where parental units were way too busy to focus on their child's life, their child(ren) had to learn the hard way how to survive in the world. However, Smith grew up in an innocence-protracted, artificial life--guarded from most skill-building adversity. Far from helpful, her parent's money purchased ways of softening and retracting negative intrusions. Smith's sheltered life turned into a world that the majority of the poor have already transitioned into at a much earlier a ...more
Sep 16, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it
I first heard of this writer because she had an op-ed published in the Sunday NY Times on August 23 which was related to her second book. I googled her and ended up finding out about this memoir and decided to read it before reading her second book. This is an excellent memoir. It was interesting to read back to back with Camilla Gibb's memoir because where that one was quite spare on the details, Smith's memoir gave a lot more details. Smith's mom died when she was 18 and her father when she wa ...more
Feb 12, 2015 Josie rated it it was amazing
This book came to me 2nd hand from the lovely HI77 who worries about the sadness of my reading taste. It is very apparent that this book once belonged to Winnetka-Northfield Public Library. It make me smile when Winnetka in mentioned at the start of Chapter 9.

It feels wrong to say that I enjoyed this book given it takes you through the authors painful life story of dealing with the death of both her parents.
"Creating this book wasn't just about writing, but about moving forward..."
It inspires
Sarah Cauble
Feb 09, 2013 Sarah Cauble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the Rules of Inheritance, Claire Bidwell Smith beautifully and honestly revisits moments throughout her life and her journey through grief. An incredibly powerful memoir, her eloquent words admittedly induced waterworks, and left me with many feelings of empathy. While her story is heartbreaking, ultimately, Smith is able to share her forgiveness and overcome her grief, offering strength and healing. I highly recommend this to someone who has suffered after the loss of a loved one.
Jun 12, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it
The last two chapters saved the book for me. While I appreciated her laying bare the complexity and powerful nature of grief, I found her writing style formulaic and simplistic. She often repeats herself and retells the same incident in different chapters, making me wonder if it didn't start as a series of essays rather than a fully formed book. Having read many memoirs, Joan Didion's "Blue Nights" most recently, this one seems amateurish and infantile in comparison.
Aug 06, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it
This book is an intense, emotional roller coaster. Claire Bidwell Smith lost both her parents to cancer within years of each other, and by the time she was 25. It is extremely well written, raw, and often hard to read because you feel so much sadness for Claire as she narrates her life through loss. This book is not a light-hearted read, but a memoir about pain, grieving, and life after loss and how to come out on the other side. Read with a box of tissues.
The Bookloft
Bookseller: Laura

I first came upon Claire Bidwell-smith through an essay online. The essay talked about courage - in life and in writing - and how, in her current life, she sourced that courage from her father's legacy as an unsung war hero. What stuck with me most after reading The Rules of Inheritance - which is really about how the writer dealt with the death of both of her parents relatively close together - is the story line about her father, their relationship, and the things he gets (and
Nov 19, 2015 Anirudh rated it it was ok
Shelves: plain-bad
I googled this author up after reading her piece in the NYT opionator "What the Psychic Showed Me" which is regarding her experiences with psychics in the United States as that piece was impressively written. Having read rave reviews on this book of hers in this site, I decided to listen to the audio book which is read by the author herself. This book is essentially a huge sob story that delineates the tragic loss of loved ones the author experienced well into her late twenties - the most signif ...more
Laraine Herring
Aug 06, 2012 Laraine Herring rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I read this summer -- fiction or non-fiction. Ms. Smith utterly captures the grieving process of a late-adolescent, and she does so with unflinching honesty and self-reflection (in a non-navel gazing way). I was able to see myself in the book, and thus find sparks of healing in the pages.
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Claire Bidwell Smith lives in Los Angeles. She is the author of the books The Rules of Inheritance (Penguin 2012), and After This (Penguin, 2015). Claire works in private practice as a therapist specializing in grief.

The Rules of Inheritance, a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick and a Books for a Better Life nominee, has been published in 17 countries and is currently being turned into a film.

More about Claire Bidwell Smith...

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“I am silent, marveling at the power we have to unlock a person.” 2 likes
“Three years passed. Three years without a mother. In three years my grief has grown to enormous proportions.
Grief is now a giant, sad whale that I drag along with me wherever I go.
My grief fills rooms. It takes up space and it sucks out the air. It leaves no room for anyone else.
Grief and I are left alone a lot. We smoke cigarettes and we cry.
Grief holds my hand as I walk down the sidewalk, and grief doesn't mind when I cry because it's raining and I cannot find a taxi.
Grief acts like a jealous friend, reminding me that no one else will ever love me as much as it does.
Grief whispers in my ear that no one understands me.
Grief is possessive and doesn't let me go anywhere without it.
Grief is force and I am swept up in it.”
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