In a deeply affecting memoir, Claire Bidwell Smith takes the reader through the long and winding path from depression to joy. It begins with her learning as a young teenager that both her parents have been diagnosed with cancer. This information is as deeply troubling in an odd way, as it is nearly irrelevant to a 14-year-old who has never experienced serious loss, let alone death. Instead being able to confront this monumental truth, Claire begins acting out in small and negative ways.
When she is in her first year of college, Claire’s mother succumbs. She was not present for her mother’s death and knows no way to come to terms with it. It’s another seven years before her father dies, and this is when Claire falls into a depression that comes of finally realizing that she is alone in the world, is no one’s “special person,” and begins to suffer acutely from the loss of both.
Moving from one dysfunctional relationship to the next, and drinking heavily, Claire seeks ways to dull the pain and her deep feelings of self-hatred. Gradually, she begins to take her mother’s last advice to try to fully know and love herself before giving over to love of others. Through a happy marriage and a daughter of her own, and through the beginning of life’s work helping others, Claire finds happiness in small moments.
This memoir is a guide to finding a way forward for those who are grieving, and a lesson for everyone in finding the joy in everyday life. A winner for book clubs everywhere.
Hudson Street Press/Penguin; ISBN 978-1-59463-008-0; $25.95.