Monday, February 23, 2009

The Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash (a review)

The Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie NashThe Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash is the story of Claire, the daughter of a legendary landscape photographer and the mother of a talented young painter, who feels sandwiched between two “geniuses” despite a successful career as a commercial photographer. Dismissed as untalented at a young age by her father, Claire finds herself re-examining her life and what she thought she knew about his creative process after his death.

Claire’s whole life has been shaped by her father’s assessment (and abandonment) of her, and his death forces her to confront her ambivalence about the path she has chosen. Nash does an excellent job of portraying Claire’s loss of vision as an artist as well as her tempestuous relationship with her talented daughter. Although some of their interactions made me cringe, it was only because they seemed so painfully real. Nash asks big questions in this novel, to which there are no easy answers: Where does talent/creativity come from? What does it take to achieve success as an artist? What is the price of genius?

Unfortunately, the ending of the book was a bit of a let-down. I felt that Nash shortchanged Claire by rushing the ending, relying on somewhat clich├ęd images to provide a tidy end without fully exploring what I thought were some of the most interesting elements of the story: what Claire was going to do about what she had discovered about her father and how she was going to establish a healthier relationship with her daughter. Despite this, The Only True Genius in the Family is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.

For other reviews, visit these blogs:
A Reader’s RespiteAt Home with BooksBooking MamaMaw BooksPeeking Between the PagesS. Krishna’s BooksThe Compulsive Reader

For author interviews, pop over to these sites:
At Home with BooksMaw BooksMother Daughter Book ClubThe Compulsive ReaderThe Urban Muse

Thank you to Jennie and Berkley Books for sending me this book to review.

This is the third book I review for the New Authors Challenge.


  1. Thanks for an informative review. I shall also read some of the others you have links for. That's a nice thing to do! Come visit over at BOOKIN' WITH BINGO sometime! Thanks!

  2. Wow, that was fast, Bingo! Thank you! I unfortunately tried to comment on one of your posts and the word verification refused to load, so I couldn't post my comment. Argh!

  3. This sounds good - it's too bad the ending is rushed. I've read books like that before and wondered if the author was trying to meet a deadline so they just wrapped things up where they were. Great review.

  4. Sounds interesting, but mainly because it ties into my recent fascination with the nature of creativity. I recently watched Elizabeth Gilbert's (of Eat, Pray, Love) TED conference on nurturing creativity - definitely some food for thought there! (Just Google Elizabeth Gilbert and TED).

  5. While the premise does sound like it could be intriguing to some, this seems like a pass. The prospect of reading a hurriedly written book doesn't sound too appealing and the subject isn't enough to get me skipping. I probably wouldn't enjoy this sort of book, so it's quite good I read your review. I'll know to place other books infinitely higher on my list.

  6. It's disappointing when an author rushes to the end. I don't need a perfect ending all tied up with a bow. I would rather have a ragged ending that is a bit more developed. Sorry the ending did not do it for you.

  7. Hi, this is Jennie Nash the author of The Only True Genius in the Family. I had to chime in on the conversation because it's so interesting -- this notion about how sometimes endings can feel rushed. I actually didn't rush the ending because of a time crunch or deadline; in fact, I wrote the ending of this book first! I had a real vision for where it should end up, and then went back and wrote "to" that end. That being said, it is definitely a challenge to tie up all the threads of a story. I was glad this reviewer liked much of the book, and sorry the ending let her down. I also wanted to say that I, too, saw the Elizabeth Gilbert TED lecture, and it is, indeed, very interesting. Cheers! Jennie

  8. Thanks. This is a great review. Those endings can be pesky and hard to reconcile especially when we become so involved with the issues and the characters. Too bad you didn't like it more.

  9. I just found out tonight that I am getting a review copy of this book. Thanks for the review and for the links to the author interviews!

  10. Thanks for the shout out Avis. I really enjoyed this book. I do think that I also mentioned that I felt there could have been more to the ending---I would have liked also to know more about where the characters ended up, especially Claire and her daughter. All in all though, a very worthwhile read.

  11. Sorry, folks, to have dropped the ball on this conversation!

    Thanks, Jennie, for commenting on my review and letting us in on how the book was written. I guess I identified quite a bit with Claire's issues (feeling abandoned by her father, self-doubt about her right/ability to create, etc.) and so, as you mentioned in your review, Dar, I wished there'd been more about her healing process with her family.

    Michelle, thank you so much for pointing out that lecture! It's fantastic. For those who are interested in watching the video, click here. It's worth it!

    Nicole, I think that's it exactly. I wanted more!

    Kristi, I'll keep an eye out for your review!

    Dar, you're welcome. I enjoyed your review!

    Thanks to everybody who commented!

  12. Too bad the ending fell flat. Otherwise sounds like a fantastic read.


  13. It's definitely a thought-provoking read, Shana.