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The Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie…
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The Only True Genius in the Family

by Jennie Nash

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Showing 5 of 5
I think that we damage more deeply than we realize or intend, but as long as we practice the twin arts of tolerance and forgiveness we just might survive. I've certainly made my mistakes, and also bear scars of my own.

This story of a photographer of good, but not stellar craft, who is the daughter of a renowned photographer and the mother of a rising star artist, is an interesting study of it all. ( )
  bookczuk | Mar 8, 2011 |
This book was a quick read, and I found myself grateful for that. I think Nash took on two very real problems - grieving for the death of a parent while still trying to parent one's own children, and struggling as an adult to find a place in the world and in one's own life - but she let the characters slip too deeply into cliched speech and behavior. It's very interesting to consider the ways in which parents injure their children, often without realizing, and the ways that childhood events linger in memory and influence adult behavior. But in my opinion Nash's characters were more annoying than compelling, their dialogue stilted and their emotions overdrawn.

Nash's exploration of the nature of creativity was definitely the most interesting aspect of this book for me - she questions whether we are all born with a seed within us that some people are just better equipped (or enabled) to express, or whether some people have genius and some just don't. Claire is a successful commercial photographer, but compared to her father's iconic work her successes seem insubstantial. She is haunted by his greatness, as well as by her daughter's seeming genius - did she get left out of the creative gene pool?

This book had potential, and definitely tackled some interesting questions; I just don't think Nash executed her ideas to the best of her intentions. The novel wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either - I give it 2.5 stars, I think I could find much better chick lit or family drama without too much effort. ( )
  smileydq | Feb 22, 2010 |
Claire's father was a world famous photographer, known for his beautiful, spontaneous shots of the scenic western wonderland he loved so much. As a child, Claire didn't see much of her father once he became renowned for his craft and divorced her mother to relocate to Utah. While visiting her father during summer vacation when she was fifteen, he gave her a 35mm camera to take her own pictures. He offered no instruction or encouragement, just sent her on her way. After that day of shooting film, on the walk back to the truck, Claire slipped on a rock and the camera went flying out of her hands, hitting the ground, lens shattered. When she asked her father if the film would be okay, he angrily replied, 'Nope,' and that was the end of her picture taking for several years. She didn't pick up a camera again until she was twenty-three years old when a college friend asked her to take photos of her wedding. Reluctantly, Claire agreed.

Now in her mid fifties, Claire is a successful commercial food photographer, doing work for Bon Appetit, O Magazine and other high profile media. She isn't the genius her father has been labeled, but she's happy with her work and feels comfortable with the niche she has carved out for herself. She's married to Harrison, a hard working, supportive and loving husband who helps her with her business. She has a daughter, Bailey, an artist who is graduating from college and starting a promising career of her own.

When Claire gets a call that her father has died in a skiing accident, she is forced to re-arrange her schedule, which includes some clients that Harrison has worked very hard to get, and fly to her father's home in Driggs, Idaho to meet with the lawyers about his estate. It is there that she learns that her father left Bailey not only a huge trust, he also gave her sole rights to reprint images from all his negatives, which means she is the only one to decide what gets reproduced and by whom.

The closeness that Bailey shared with her grandfather was obvious. They seemed to speak the same language of art, light and color, making Claire feel like an outsider. She never had that connection with her dad, and though she was happy that Bailey did, she couldn't help but be a little envious - or was it jealousy?

While helping to put together a retrospective of her father's work, Claire begins to question her own career; every decision, every photo she takes. Ultimately, things start to unravel. She does things she knows she shouldn't do, but she just can't seem to stop herself. It doesn't help Claire's confidence that Bailey's young career is starting to shine or that it all seems to come so naturally to her. Claire begins to wonder if the genius that her father had in him is in Bailey, but absent in her own genes. Is that even possible?

Jennie Nash's THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY is a great book for so many reasons. Not only is it a story of a daughter who longed for her father's attention and approval, it's also a story about the different types of connections you can have with those closest to you. That as a family, we may not all relate in the same way, but that doesn't make us outsiders to each other. There are also revelations that surface that show the loyalty in this family to someone who may not have seemed to show loyalty to them. This book also brings up the subject of what constitutes the natural ability of an artist.

Once I started reading this book, I flew through it. I think I even read half of it in the first sitting. I liked the premise of the story, learning a little about photography, painting and the different appoaches to each. It was all very interesting to me. But, surprisingly, most of the time, I didn't care for the main character, Claire. I hated some of the things she did and I felt she could've treated her husband better. She often came across as selfish to me, thinking of herself more than others. Don't get me wrong, I did feel for her with some of the things she went through. Claire was always second guessing herself, over thinking everything, most times to a point of self distruction. But that's OK. Maybe that's what helped make the story so believeable to me. People aren't perfect. Families have flaws and in showing Claire's flaws, it brought a realistic feel to the story. I wondered while reading, if that's how the author wanted Claire to be perceived, or was it just me?

The fact that I didn't love the main character, doesn't mean I didn't love the story. I really did. Without giving anything away, I just want to say, I loved the very end. I felt satisfied and the fact that I had some problems with Claire, were dimished in the final pages. To me, that's the work of a great author. ( )
  SouthernGirlReads | Jul 22, 2009 |
The Only True Genius in the Family is a book about a woman trying to come to terms with her father's death & her daughter's life. Neither one is easy for a woman trying to find a comfortable place in her own life. It was great to watch the character grow & find out that she is stronger & more talented than she ever gave herself credit for. ( )
  charlotteg | Mar 14, 2009 |
The Only True Genius in the Family 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 clichéd 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 thought-provoking read.

A slightly different version of this review can be found on my blog, she reads and reads. ( )
1 vote avisannschild | Mar 3, 2009 |
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My dad died at an incredibly inconvenient time, and I have no doubt that he planned it that way on purpose.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425225755, Paperback)

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...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:53 -0400)

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. 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.… (more)

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