Summary: From the author of The Last Beach Bungalow: a portrait of a family—in all its heartbreaking complexity.
Though she lives in the shadow of her legendary landscape photographer father, and is the mother of a painter whose career is about to take off, Claire has carved out a practical existence as a commercial photographer. Her pictures may not be the stuff of genius, but they’ve paid for a good life.
But when her father dies, Claire loses faith in the work she has devoted her life to—and worse, begins to feel jealous of her daughter’s success. Then, as she helps prepare a retrospective of her famous father’s photographs, Claire uncovers revelations about him that change everything she believes about herself as a mother, a daughter, and an artist… -- Berkley
THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY by Jennie Nash is a wonderful novel. I have seen some incredible reviews out there and knew I really wanted to read it. I requested a copy from a Shelf Awareness ad and was so glad when I received a copy. I devoured this book in just a few hours because I couldn't put it down.
The writing is this novel is just beautiful. I have not read a book by Jennie Nash before THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY, but I definitely want to go back and read her first novel THE LAST BEACH BUNGALOW. I love how she developed all of the characters in this novel, and I thought all of the characters were very believable (even Claire's father who was kind of a tyrant.) I really think Ms. Nash has a talent for writing about family relationships. I was so impressed with not only how she portrayed the the mother-daughter relationship, but I also thought her portrayal of Claire's marriage and the relationship with her father were extremely well done. Like the characters, these relationships were extremely complex and very deep on so many levels.
THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY really made me think, and I love finding books that make me do that. I was naturally troubled with Claire's father and his treatment of her; however, I was particularly intrigued with Claire and her daughter's relationship. At times, Claire found herself jealous of her daughter's artistic talent. I thought I'd be upset with her for having those feelings -- I mean a mother is supposed to want the best for her daughter, isn't she? But I surprised myself because I actually felt compassion for her and even understood her feelings. Claire desperately wanted to be a "genius" and feel worthy of her father to the point that it almost destroyed her. I couldn't imagine wanting something so badly and then having to watch my daughter and my father have what I always desired. I found this part of the story to be so tragic, and I even questioned how (or if) I would be able to handle it.
I think I most enjoyed this book because I loved how Claire's character learned not only about her father and his talent, but also about herself. After her father's death (which just had to happen at the worst possible time), Claire really began to question her relationship with her father and even started questioning her artistic abilities. I'm sure that dealing with the loss of a parent is difficult in the most normal of circumstance, but Claire has led her entire life feeling as if she wasn't "good enough" for her father. (Now in all fairness to Claire, her father didn't exactly do anything to make her feel worthy of him.) I found Claire's feelings to be extremely destructive, not only to herself but to those she loved; and I found myself hoping that she didn't ruin the good relationships in her life because of her pain. I really liked Claire, despite her shortcomings, and wanted her to find some peace and happiness.
THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY is the perfect book to discuss, especially if your book club enjoys stories about family relations. There are so many topics to talk about including father/daughter relationships, mother/daughter relationships, marriage, "true genius," passion, jealously, etc. I think it would be fascinating to discuss what actually constitutes a "genius". I definitely think that talent is derived from both genes as well as environment, but I would love to hear my friends' opinions. I also think it would be interesting to talk about all of the family dynamics. A Readers Guide is included in the back of the paperback version of the book; however, I unfortunately wasn't able to find a link to the questions.
A big thanks to Berkley for sending me a copy of this book.