The Only True Genius in the Family
by Jennie Nash

Berkley Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0-425-22575-2.
Reviewed by Janet Caplan
Posted on 04/09/2009

Fiction: Mainstream

Claire, the central character in this new book by Jennie Nash, is a woman caught in her own version of the sandwich generation; her father, just deceased, was a universally acclaimed landscape photographer, considered to be a genius in his field. Her daughter, Bailey, a young, emerging painter, has also been touted as an artistic genius. Where does that leave Claire? She believes, as her father drummed into her head, that genius skips a generation and that she is missing that family trait. She is jealous of both her father and her daughter. Claire even discounts her successful career as a commercial photographer because it doesn't measure up to her father's expectations: it is without artistic merit. As the art world mourns her father's death and heaps praise on his legacy and as the same world is discovering the newly discovered genius of Bailey's art, Claire begins to doubt herself and her own capabilities.

In helping to prepare a retrospective of her father's work, Claire makes some discoveries that surprise her. She finds, in his collections, work of hers she had thought he'd considered inferior. And although their relationship had never been a good one in that he was simply not there for her, she comes to terms with who he was outside of his artistic image and with her place in his life. This helps her with her own feelings of self-worth and with her relationship with Bailey. It is left to the reader to consider whether it is perhaps Claire who is The Only True Genius in the Family.

Jennie Nash, in this novel,provides a good look at some difficult relationships: father-daughter and mother-daughter. These can provide uneasy situations at the best of times, but throw in artistic temperaments and genius and the potential for tension is great. It rears its head in the pages of this book and provides a great story with resolution at its end. This was a very well-written, fast paced story. While not always likeable, the characters are multi-faceted and believable; they were people to think about. A very good read.

Jennie Nash is the author of three books of narrative nonfiction, one of which is her memoir on breast cancer, entitled The Victoria's Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming: And Other Lessons I Learned From Breast Cancer as well as her first novel The Last Beach Bungalow. She is currently at work on her third novel, due out in 2010. She lives with her husband and children in Torrance, California. Visit her website.

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