The Rules of Inheritance

The Rules of Inheritance

A Memoir

Written by:

  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101559864
  • 304 Pages
  • Plume
  • Adult


A powerful and searingly honest memoir about a young woman who loses her family but finds herself in the process.

In this astonishing debut, Claire Bidwell Smith, an only child, is just fourteen years old when both of her charismatic parents are diagnosed with cancer. What follows is a coming-of-age story that is both heartbreaking and exhilarating. As Claire hurtles towards loss she throws herself at anything she thinks might help her cope with the weight of this harsh reality: boys, alcohol, traveling, and the anonymity of cities like New York and Los Angeles. By the time she is twenty-five years old they are both gone and Claire is very much alone in the world.

Claire’s story is less of a tragic tale and more of a remarkable lesson on how to overcome some of life’s greatest hardships. Written with suspense and style, and bursting with love and adventure, The Rules of Inheritance vividly captures the deep grief and surprising light of a young woman forging ahead on a journey of loss that humbled, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.


"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

"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

"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