On Monday, the brother of a good friend passed away at the age of 41 from metastatic melanoma. Feeling sad, the next day I picked up Claire Bidwell Smith’s new memoir, The Rules of Inheritance (Hudson Street Press, 2012). I finished it twenty-four hours later.
Several weeks earlier, I’d learned about this book thanks to Stuart Beaton’s interview with Claire Bidwell Smith: http://rastous.podomatic.com/player/web/2012-02-27T17_29_46-08_00
Bidwell Smith is a therapist who specializes in grief counseling. Her memoir chronicles the tumultuous path she took to get to the point where she could deal with the grief of losing her parents before the age of 25. She reveals the outline of her story in the beginning of the book, but it works so well because her writing captured my attention from start to finish.
The book is structured into five parts that follow Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief. I also like how she doesn’t follow a chronological timeline, which she pulls off flawlessly.
Bidwell Smith was the only child of older parents. When she was 14, both parents were diagnosed with cancer. Her mother passed away from colon cancer when Claire was 18; her father also died from cancer six years later when Claire was 24.
Although she can never bring her parents back, Bidwell Smith learns to live with her grief and get on with her life. It’s a sad story, but it’s also an uplifting one.
So yesterday I dragged my youngest child to an independent bookstore to pick up a copy for my friend who just lost her brother. Like Bidwell Smith, my friend works in hospice and blogs about her experiences, so I thought she might find The Rules of Inheritance to be a helpful book.
When I brought the book to the checkout counter, the saleswoman turned it over to scan the price and read the back cover blurbs.
“Do you know what this book is about?” she asked incredulously.
“Yes. In fact, I just finished it and want to buy it for a friend who just lost her brother.” And I went on to tell her about the story. We discussed it along with Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild (another grief memoir), and ended up having a lovely conversation about something we’ll all experience at some point.
The saleswoman never told me why she was so interested in talking about this, but she wrote down the name of Bidwell Smith’s book and took down Cheryl Strayed’s name, too.
I’ve never had a conversation like that at a chain bookstore.