I'm not sure how to begin to write about Claire Bidwell Smith's memoir The Rules of Inheritance. My first thought is how absolutely stunning the writing is. My second thought is how hard it was to read, especially for someone to whom empathy is so automatic as it is to me.
And yet, and yet. And yet, I adored this book.
The Rules of Inheritance is a memoir of loss. It tells the story of a woman who lost her mother at 18 and her father at 25, who finds herself "unmoored" by grief, who loses herself in alcohol and relationships. It tells the story of a woman who doesn't know how to continue her life after such a tragic and inescapable loss. And yet she does.
The story is told in a non-linear manner, not progressing chronologically, but with vignettes organized according to Kubler-Ross's stages of grief. What is so fascinating about this to me is that they are in fact not chronological, that she moves through all these stages recursively, from acceptance back to bargaining to anger to depression, returning to each again and again.
This is a story of tragedy, but it is not a tragic story. It is about loss, but so much more it is about growth, about self awareness and self acceptance. This was a book which, for me, showed a path through grief. It isn't an easy path, but it is a path which leads somewhere beautiful.
And for me, above all, this is a book which reminds me what I love about language, reminds me of the power of words, of the way that the darkest moments of our lives can contain the utmost beauty. It's a book that reminds me why I love to read.
And why I love to write.
Disclosure: This is a paid review for Blog Her book Club. All opinions are my own.