The loss of a loved one can be an incredibly hard blow for anyone. Not only have they lost someone special to them, but there is such sentimental value to the things they leave behind. It can be a monumental task to decide what to do with it all, balancing practicality with emotion.
In “The Sum of Trifles,” author Julia Ridley Smith moves through her own loss: the loss of her parents. Antique collectors and shop owners, Smith’s parents had an extensive and elaborate collection of furniture, books, arts and artifacts that came into Smith’s possession upon their deaths.
Through a memoir of essays, Smith sorts through her parents’ worldly possessions, trying to find meaning in each of the objects left behind. Some pieces remind her of her mother, like a small Japanese screen; some pieces remind her of her father, like prosthetic pieces; and some pieces remind her of a complicated past within her family, like the antebellum quilt.
“The Sum of Trifles” analyzes a material culture and what it truly means to leave things behind. Smith combines dark humor and incredibly personal feelings to create a roadmap through her parents’ lives, deciding what to keep and what to let go.