Reader ThoughtsThe Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash, Berkley Books 2009, 286 pages
MOTIVATION for READING: I received this book directly from the author after ‘meeting’ her over at Lisa’s Books on the Brain post about sticky books. Seems we’ve read quite a few of the same books and have found many of the same to be quite memorable. I didn’t realize that she was a bona fide author and admit I got all bashful when I found out she’s written a slew of books. Interesting books, books I now intend to read. In fact, I have already purchased her first novel The Last Beach Bungalow and hope to read it this weekend. (I rarely read multiple books by an author – just works out that way, it’s not a deliberate thing.)
I very much enjoyed this book.
FIRST SENTENCE: My dad died at an incredibly inconvenient time, and I have no doubt that he planned it that way.
WHAT’s IT ABOUT: I could say this book is about art and photography: Claire is a ‘food’ photographer who has to take some time off to deal with the death of her father, a recognized ‘genius’ in the art of photography. It’s about family: We meet her husband, a professor who has been brilliant in his promotion of Claire’s business and we meet her daughter who is about to embark on her own career in art. It’s about the definition of genius and how Claire explores being sandwiched between all this geniusness. It’s not so much about grief and death but self-discovery in life. It’s about creativity, self-doubt, and.. It’s about making mistakes and learning from them. It’s about love.
WHAT’s GOOD: I was very nervous about reading this book because I really wanted to like it. I was worried that I was bringing too many expectations to it. Thankfully, the writing is strong yet light, the research in photography, art, even chocolate, etc was perfectly blended into the story, and the author skillfully achieves the right balance of humor and pathos and love. I was able to forget myself and get pulled into the lives of these people. I enjoyed every page.
There is one pivotal scene that I was shouting at Claire, “NOOOoooooo!” and yet it was believable – both what and how it happened and how it played out to its conclusion.
I also want to add that the Reader’s Guide at the end of the book has some extremely deep PERSONAL questions: What is the story of your inner artist? Have you ever been jealous of someone you love? Great questions! Ones that use points within the story to jump start the reader’s own journey of personal discovery rather than just rehash what happens in the book. (sounds like fodder for another post?)
WHAT’s NOT so GOOD: **crickets** (Can’t think of anything to write in this spot.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: I was very impressed with Nash’s writing style, her gentle philosophies evident in the descriptions of the characters, and the excellent research she must have conducted which could have weighed heavy yet is just perfectly woven into the story.
PIE NOTE: I’ve started noticing when books mention pie. Nash must like pie because she has two separate mentions of pie: the first was in the part when Claire first meets the guy she ends up marrying (oops – can’t locate the page; I think it was a Maple Syrup Blueberry) and the second was in a memory of her mother.
I was twenty-two years old when my mother died, and I had counted on feeling her spirit. She hadn’t gotten a very good deal out of life … – and I counted on the fact that it would all be made up to her in death. I imagined her spirit was on a romp through heaven, and that she would join me when I went to church and sang the soaring Protestant hymns I had learned at her side or when I made an apple pie from honeycrisp apples. p.107
ISBN 978-0-425-22575-2 (trade pbk.) 1. Family-Fiction. 2. Artists-Fiction, 3. Intergenerational relations-Fiction.