Thursday, February 23, 2012

Unexpectedly Wiser

Today, a pause in the Things We Love in February series, {first post here}, for a book review.

When I agreed to review Rules of Inheritance it was with great trepidation because this book is ultimately about death and dying.

Not, perhaps, a book one should take on in the midst of the winter doldrums.

Not, perhaps a book for one who is, at heart, a happy endings kinda gal.

Not at all, the kind of book one should cozy up with when she is, a fiction enthusiast.

And especially not a book one spends her time reading when she'd rather be playing sleuth in a mystery novel.

Yet, there I sat, book in hand, telling my Man I'd be to bed shortly, that I needed to begin reading "this book" so that I could complete it by the deadline. My plan was to read the first chapter and then escape the sad tale by drifting off to sleep. However, next time I looked up, it was 2:00 a.m. and I'd completed 40% of the book, the non-fiction, memoir, with language that, at times, curled my ears and situations that broke my heart. I would go on to finish this powerful, honest work in just a few more sittings, weeks before the deadline, with the author's words still in my ears for days to come...
Grief holds my hand as I walk down the sidewalk, and grief doesn't mind when I cry....Grief wraps itself around me in the morning when I wake from a dream of my mother, and grief holds me back when I lean too far over the edge....Grief acts like a jealous friend, reminding me that no one else will love me as much as it does. Grief whispers in my ear that no one understands me. Grief is possessive and doesn't let me go anywhere without it.
Rules of Inheritance is a skillfully written memoir, by Claire Bidwell Smith, an only child, who, when she was but fourteen years old was dealt the reality of losing both of her parents early in life as both were diagnosed with cancer within a few months of each other. Claire's mom would succumb during Claire's freshman year of college when the author was already making desperate life choices as a result of the impending losses looming in her future.

The memoir is arranged not in chronological order, but instead is divided into the five stages of grief, written about by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who is quoted at the beginning of each section of Smith's account. I liked the unconventional arrangement because just as Claire's life became way-too-intense for me in my white-pickett-fenced life, the story would shift to another phase and setting and ease the pressure, if only for a time.

It was with great trepidation, I said, that I began this book and it is with the same trepidation that I say...

  the reading of this book was good for me. 

I cannot imagine that anyone's life trajectory could be more of a counterpoint to Claire Bidwell Smith's than mine, growing up with two parents and two sisters, all of our lives intertwined one with another. My life is still very much this way, all intertwined with sisters and daughters, a son and husband, my mother and father. Claire lost the small amount of intertwined goodness that she possessed at the beginning of her life and in her formative, growing, maturing years, she had to function out of a void as she explains, in what could be the thesis of her work:
I often wonder who I would be had my parents not died. I watch my friends, envying the security they feel in their lives. They don't even realize they feel so safe, but I can see it in the way they try out different career paths and relationships. In the ways they move toward each mile marker with a seeming confidence that it will be there when they arrive.                        
Losing one's parents is perhaps one of the most painful things to encounter in life and this memoir is of a young girl who by the age of 25 has done it twice. I understand loss in a better way now, I understand better how a person is affected by such loss, not just for a season, but for life. I also understand now, by being allowed, through the reading of this book, how one can come up out of the grief of "being no one's important person" to experiencing life on the other side of the pain and becoming "an important person" to many. I didn't expect to be any wiser as a result of reading such a book, yet here I am, unexpectedly so.

"Losing someone you love is akin to a deep physical wound. It will eventually heal but there will always be a scar. It's not that the loss goes away. It's just that you learn to live with it." 
~Claire Bidwell Smith, author.

Disclosure Statement: I received this book for the purposes of a compensated review for BlogHer Book Club. The opinions stated within are, happily and totally my own!

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