Book Reviews Books for Adults Non-fiction

The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith

For the first two-thirds of The Rules of Inheritance, I was mentally writing this review in my head and it went something like, “I hate to write really negative things about a memoir, of all books, because it’s so personal, but this book is horrible. It’s so dark and depressing and I feel unhappy just looking at it.”

But, I have to admit, by the end of the book, I found myself really liking Claire and feeling a lot of admiration for her for pulling herself out of the darkness in her life.

Her parents are both diagnosed with cancer when she’s 14 and her mother dies just after Claire begins college. Her father hangs on until she’s about 25, but after her mom’s death, Claire really loses herself, spiraling into grief and depression and heavy drinking. It is not very pleasant to read about.

It’s written in an interesting way, with episodes of her life told in a non-linear format, organized instead into the five stages of grief. Frankly, I think the book is quite well-written and at the end I was a little taken aback by how smoothly it all came together, but getting there. Oh, it was a bit of a slog. 

Frankly, I’m still torn on whether or not the redemptive qualities of the end were enough to overcome how strongly I disliked the majority of the book. Can a good ending make up for an overall unpleasant read?

Also, I feel like such a heartless jerk for disliking a book about a woman who lost both her parents before she was my age.

I read this book for the BlogHer Book Club and you can read other reviews and discussions at BlogHer. I am paid for my participation in the BlogHer Book Club, but I choose which books to read and my reviews are strictly my own opinions. If I think a book is terrible, I’ll say so. If I rave about a book, it’s because it’s one I’d give to Kayla or my mom.

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  • Reply miss_shortskirt February 23, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Well, at least it wasn't A Child Called It!

    (You could probably include that line in any review of a sad memoir you feel bad about not liking.)

  • Reply Creole Wisdom February 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I just ordered this one. I'll let you know what I think. Oh yeah, and "A Child Called it" made me want to dye!

  • Reply Amanda February 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Did you dislike it because of the way the story was formatted or was it the subject? I just read a book that wasn't altogether horrible, but I couldn't love it because of the subject matter. Just made me feel depressed and I can't recommend a book that depresses people, despite an overall mood upswing at the end. Not redeeming enough for me, but that was a fiction book. Have you read Left To Tell? That is a depressing story, but the woman is so inspiring! So I guess I can't make up my mind. You're welcome for the help. 🙂

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