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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (588 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Claire Bidwell Smith Narrator: Claire Bidwell Smith Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2012 ISBN: 9781101579671
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The Rules of Inheritance is 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—learns that both of her parents have 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • “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

  • “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

  • “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 powerful, moving memoir of overcoming grief and loss.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “In this deeply reflective, anguished memoir, LA 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.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Gritty, poetic, and illuminating.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “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  

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marianne | 2/18/2014

    " I came across this memoir at the library and picked it up on a whim. I must have read it in less than two days because it was written so fluidly and well. It is modeled after the five stages of grief - the most powerful aspect about this book is that she holds nothing back as she comes to terms with her parents' untimely deaths in her own way, own time. It begins with the end, set against the nuances of growing up with aging and sick parents. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Denise | 2/8/2014

    " It's truly been painful to read this book. The writing is excellent but her pain is so palpable that I can't help but have mini breakdowns as I read. As an only child as well i can only imagine and fear that loneliness she so vividly describes. Brutiful book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joselyn Lundy | 2/5/2014

    " Bravely beautiful! Without a doubt, it seduces one into being more honest and vulnerable and conjures up grit from your inner woman. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janssen | 2/2/2014

    " I actively disliked the first 2/3rds of this book. And then the end somehow redeemed it for me. It is very sad and dark for the most part, but really ends on a happy note. Mixed feelings. . .. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hillary | 1/30/2014

    " could not finish, it was too sad, but what i read was very compelling. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 1/19/2014

    " This was incredibly sad but I totally enjoyed it. I have never read anything like it--I loved her voice and her style and I now have some idea of what grief is really like--I have friends and a husband who have lost parents as teenagers and I wish I had read something like this a long time ago.... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shannon Spinning | 1/8/2014

    " Very good but deeply sad. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jenny | 12/28/2013

    " Best memoir I've read in a while. Crafted prose that, even though you know the ending from the minute you begin the book, keeps you reading. It's not about telling a chronological story, but rather about understanding the experience of grief in both its universal and particular manifestations. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynn Harpham | 12/14/2013

    " Excellent. Love her writing.... This book is one of the best memoirs dealing with grief. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lorrainesoucie | 12/12/2013

    " The style of writing is easy to read, and has a compelling story. I did find it confusing when she would go back and forth in some chapters re her life. Sometimes it made it a bit hard to follow, but did not take away from the story. The ending was very encouraging. Great read "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeanne | 12/6/2013

    " I couldn't put it down until I had read every word. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Silvergift | 9/17/2013

    " Free book from a giveaway I signed up for. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melissa | 6/2/2013

    " Absolutely love this memoir! Claire Bidwell Smith brilliantly crafted the chronology of her story through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief. It's heartbreaking, it's beautiful, and it's oh-so-real. It's one you won't want to put down, and one you'll never want to end. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah Parkin | 5/18/2013

    " Having lost both parents to cancer in the past 2 years this book physically hurt me to read but it's so well written that I finished it. Amazingly and brutally honest writing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janice Pillipow | 2/12/2013

    " Not a book to "enjoy" but to think about and learn from, at times to revisit grief from years ago. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caren | 2/2/2013

    " I love memoirs! Great story of growing up through grief. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ginny Marie | 2/1/2013

    " Claire Bidwell Smith lost both her parents to cancer when she was young. Her memoir about her struggle with grief can help others who also struggle with grief. For my complete review, visit my blog here: Lemon Drop Pie. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Judy Mayhew | 12/1/2012

    " Absolutely beautiful memoir. Told at fourteen that both of her parents have cancer, Ms. Smith's pain drives the narrative like a force of nature and doesn't let up until right near the end. Would love to read a novel by this author. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Natalie | 6/24/2012

    " Awesome book! She takes you into her mind and bounces around back and forth to different parts of her life and it makes you aware of how the past is not on a specific timeline and memories can be triggered from any point. Very beautiful and sad. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathy | 4/19/2012

    " There were times I wanted to stop, she was so descriptive and you just wanted to reach through the book to hug her, let her know she wasn't alone. Rooting for her the whole time "

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About the Author
Author Claire Bidwell Smith

Claire Bidwell Smith is a therapist specializing in grief counseling and the author of the memoir The Rules of Inheritance.