The Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash

only-true-genius-in-the-familyThe Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash (Berkley, a division of Penguin, February 3, 2009), 304 pages

Claire’s father always said that genius skipped a generation — meaning that he had it and her daughter had it, but Claire herself was lacking. Claire’s father made a name, and a life, for himself taking landscape photos. Claire’s a rising star in the world of commercial photography. Claire’s daughter? She’s just finishing her MFA in studio art and looks to have a promising career ahead as a painter.

The Only True Genius in the Family explores a grown daughter’s feelings of inadequacy and pain over a broken or nonexistent relationship with her father. As Claire is working through this, she’s also trying to navigate the mother-daughter relationship with poise, without letting jealousy of her daughter’s gift or of her daughter’s close relationship with her grandfather reign.

I loved this book. It’s a look inside the mind and emotions of an artist. It touches on the artist-as-genius mentality. It explores broken and painful family relationships. And as much as I keep saying this book was about pain, it was actually generally happy, hopeful, inspirational in tone.

Overall, I’d call this book restorative. It doesn’t set out to answer all the questions or tie up every loose end. It does end in resolve, though.

One complaint: I did not care for the book’s characterization of organized religion.

The Only True Genius in the Family includes a discussion guide.

The author’s website, where you can read an excerpt of The Only True Genius in the Family, blog, and Twitter profile. Nash is also the author of The Last Beach Bungalow.

Read an interview with Nash here.

Other reviews:
At Home with Books
Maw Books
Booking Mama
Peeking Between the Pages


12 responses to “The Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash

  1. I loved this book. I did. I really related to the feelings of inadequacy as an artist as that’s how I felt the whole time I was going to school for photography. I’m happy that you liked it!

  2. This one is near the top of my wish list.

  3. This looks really good. Can I ask what sort of an attitude the author took towards organized religion? Unremittingly hostile, or giving it too much of a pass?

    • Leaning more toward hostile, but that’s stronger language than I’d apply in this case. It really wasn’t that big of a deal (what I’m thinking of was just a brief scene), I just didn’t like it. It was more a total discounting of all organized religion.

  4. Hi Wordlily,

    Thanks for your kind words about my book. I’m glad you found it inspiring and hopeful. I always have a hard time deciding upon my characters’ relationship to religion. It’s such a big thing, such a complex thing, and I find that I can’t ignore it. I’m wrestling with that right now with my novel-in-progress. We’ll see how it turns out! Cheers, Jennie Nash

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  9. Sounds intriguing; like exactly the type of book I love!


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