- Fizzy Thoughts: The Only True Genius in the Family

The Only True Genius in the Family

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

true genius
The Only True Genius in the Family
Jennie Nash
February 2009
292 pages

Publisher Comments:

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 have 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.

I read this last month while I was on vacation in Portland.  And I enjoyed it so much I ran back to Powell’s (like I needed an excuse) hoping they had The Last Beach Bungalow.  Which they did. But that book will be the subject of another post.  Let’s talk TOTGITF.

Claire is human, and that makes her a really likeable and relatable character.  She has lived in her father’s shadow, always believing herself to be less than talented.  Now that her daughter is on the brink of being a successful painter, Claire is again feeling left behind and left out.  While dealing with her father’s death and estate, Claire has a crisis of faith, so to speak.  She loses faith in her abilities and is unable to finish her photography shoots.

However, what sets Claire apart from her famous father and her about-to-be famous daughter is her caring and loving nature.  Claire feels deeply, and is hurt by her father’s repeated rejections and his love for and mentoring of Bailey, who as a child shows artistic talent.  When Claire oversteps into boundaries and (with good intentions, I believe) interferes with Bailey’s art, Bailey’s cutting rejection is equally painful.

I would argue that Claire is the true genius in her family.  While she has a loving and supportive husband, he still seems a bit clueless as to depths of Claire’s hurt.  Her father and Bailey are both self-centered. Because she cares, it is Claire who seeks to understand both herself and those around her, and I think that makes her the true genius.

Other reviews:
S. Krishna

8 comment(s):

Care said...

Yes! great review.

Melanie said...

I've never heard of this book before, but it sounds very interesting. The cover is pretty too.

Ti said...

It sounds like Claire is dealing with a lot of internal conflict and I love internal conflict in a novel. I consider myself a deep thinker at times and I like when characters are the same way in a book. Maybe I will check this one out.

Lisa said...

Great review! I posted mine today as well and even tho we felt differently about Claire - I still appreciated her emotional turmoil over her relationship with her father, or lack thereof. I'm looking forward to her next book!

Jennie Nash said...

I wanted to cry -- to hear that my novel made you run out to Powells. I mean, really, is there better praise than that? Thank you for your kind words.

Veens said...

wow! I love novels like these! I wish I could get this one, I hope to enjoy it!

Beth F said...

I keep hearing good things about this novel -- I really should read for myself already.

Joanne said...

Still needing to read this one. I've got this new idea - every Sunday I'm gonna make a pile of 5-8 books to read that week. TOTGITF is going on this week's pile!

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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