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.
If you get the chance to read this book, you really should. If you're in a book club, this would make such a great pick. There is so much to be discussed here. I'd like to thank Jennie Nash for so kindly sending me a copy of this book that I've had my eye on ever since it came out. Jennie is also the author of THE LAST BEACH BUNGALOW. She is currently working on her next novel. You can visit her website for more information on Jennie and her books.
Author: Jennie Nash
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Published: February 2009
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars