Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: The Only True Genius in the Family

I love the title of this book because sometimes I feel like my family is filled with geniuses, and I have often wondered, if we were ranked, where I would fall on the scale. Isn't that strange? My fourth brother said that if he were ever to write a book it would be called Between James, which would be about life sandwiched between two geniuses: my father James and my brother James.

This is the basic premise of Jennie Nash's The Only True Genius in the Family: what does it mean to be a genius? Claire has lived under the shadow of her photographer-father's famous genius for her whole life. When he dies, her daughter—who he considered a genius as well— is given the job of taking his photographs and making a retrospective of his life. As the estate is settled, Claire spirals into depression, losing her own creative vision. She is a food photographer who seems to lack the fire of creativity that burn in her father and daughter.

According to her father, genius skips a generation. Claire feels terribly slighted and jealous of her daughter. She yearns to be named a genius, to even see some evidence that her father thought her talented. By talking with various people in his life and searching through his negatives, she eventually comes to terms with her relationship with her family and her daughter and also comes to some self-realization.

Claire sounds a little whiny and self-absorbed from my description, but I really felt for her. As a child she was cast aside by her father, left to be raised by her brokenhearted mom while her dad pursued his art. As a mother, she is again cast aside by her daughter as she seeks her art. And yet Claire feels certain that she, too, has a piece of genius that needs to be recognized. I really enjoyed this book, even though I can't fathom the kind of money that Claire and her family have. They're always flying places and live in a beach house in southern California. But it was a great vacation read.

Linked up with Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books

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