Book Review: The Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash

The Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash to me felt like a real story with real people. It’s all about relationships with yourself and your family. I felt like this was such an honest story with real emotions and it hooked me in wanting to see how it would come to an end. I was sorry to see this novel end. I still would have liked to know more about how the family continued on healing and living.

The novel is centered on Claire who is a photographer that takes pictures of food for cookbooks and such yet doesn’t really see herself as an artist because of this. Her daughter Bailey is a wonderful painter—a young star about to rise. There is also Harrison and though he’s not a main character I still felt he plays a big role as he’s a huge part of keeping his family together.

The novel starts with the suicide of Claire’s father who was a famous photographer—he was considered a genius. He made beautiful pictures that made people stop and stare, as in this passage which has stuck with me because the author has so vividly painted it in my mind…it is a famous photo Claire’s father took of a buffalo in a thunderstorm…
  • ‘The animal was walking straight toward the viewer through a night that was murky, misty, hazy, wet. It looked like an apparition, like a giant creature coming out of the gloom with not entirely benign intentions. Its shoulders were enormous. Its fur was matted and wet. It looked like something that would be stalking this earth for another few millennia.’ (This passage is taken from an ARC copy and may be different in the final published copy)

For me, this book is very much about the intricacies of relationships. Claire and her father, Claire and her husband Harrison, Claire and her daughter Bailey and even Claire with herself.

It all starts with Claire never having had a close relationship with her father. He left the family when Claire was young and he wasn’t the type of man who could show his emotions well as Claire grew up. Therefore, she grew up not feeling loved by him and actually belittled by him because he felt his genius had skipped her generation and fallen upon her daughter Bailey instead. Bailey is beautiful and outgoing and you get the strong feeling of maybe jealousy on the part of Claire that Bailey has had everything she’s ever wanted including the love of her father. With her husband, while they have a good and comfortable relationship she wonders if he’ll ever actually be able to get inside her skin—or would they remain distanced in that way. Claire’s relationship with Bailey is such a rocky one. Sure Claire makes mistakes—some serious ones where Bailey is concerned—but at times Bailey could be so harsh towards her mother that it hurt me. I wonder if some of Claire’s father’s attitudes had rubbed off on Bailey since she had spent so much time with him.

Ultimately, after spending time getting her father’s things arranged after his death, Claire finds out things about him that she never knew before. These things bring her to an important understanding about her father and towards her father. She knows that they had more in common with each other than she had ever dared to hope and I think this brings her comfort and more of a plan of where to go with her future.

Jennie Nash’s writing is beautiful-it was like a bouquet of words to me. The sentences and thoughts just flow one into another. Photography is a huge part of this book as are descriptions and this is something that I really enjoyed. I love when an author can take words and make them into something I can feel in my soul when I read them. Another passage I want to share is, of course, about food. Here Claire is reading a menu that is posted on a cafe window…

  • ‘…almond biscotti dipped in Valrhona dark chocolate, mango sorbet with coconut crisps, creme brulee with fresh raspberry coulis. I imagined exactly the way each of them looked—the precise way that the almonds in the biscotti winked as if they were knowing eyes, the way the coconut stuck out of the crisps like wisps of wayward hair, the way the coulis pooled around the creme brulee as if the dessert were a little island in a sea of summer.’ (This passage is taken from an ARC copy and may be different in the final published copy)

Her words truly brought about such vivid scenes in my mind. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys photography mixed in with a real life kind of story that touches your heart along the way. This book reminded me of the importance of capturing memories in film and telling the people you love that you love them before it’s too late.

Thank you Jennie for the opportunity to review this wonderful book. I truly enjoyed it. You can visit Jennie’s website here and make sure to come back tomorrow to Peeking Between the Pages for a guest post from Jennie. Jennie’s book is available to purchase today, February 3 and can be ordered here in the US and here in Canada.


  1. Scrap girl says

    I like the sound of this book, but I might find it difficult to read at the moment. My biggest regret is that I didn’t take enough photos of my nan and I definitely didn’t tell her that I loved her enough. Though I know in the end, she knew that I loved her. I take stacks of my girls, but I don’t take enough of them with members of my family. I will definitely rectify this now.

  2. Sandy Nawrot says

    There is nothing more emotionally charged that relationships within a family. These books always make me cry! And I love the way you describe the author’s prose…a bouquet of words. What a perfect description!

  3. Jennie Nash says

    This is Jennie Nash, the author of The Only True Genius in the Family. I wanted to thank Darlene for the lovely review, and also to say to Scrap girl: I understand your pain, and I’m glad that even the idea of my story has helped a bit. Keep on clicking that camera! Jennie

  4. Madeleine says

    This book sounds truely interesting to me, I will write it down in “Books to buy”.
    Thank-you for this great review Dar.

  5. Wanda says

    Oh this sounds like a read I could really soak up. My father and now my daughter too, are both into photography so I’m sure I’d like that connection.

  6. Ramya says

    Hey Dar! That was a beautiful review. I have this book sitting on my nightstand and I am going to get to it pretty soon!:) Shall come back and discuss this with you as soon as I am done with it!:)

  7. samantha.1020 says

    This sounds like an amazing book that I have to pick up. What a great review and I will definitely have to check this one out. Thanks Dar!

  8. Staci says

    Your review was amazing Dar!! I can tell that this book really moved you…I’ll be looking for it when it comes out!!

  9. Trish says

    LOL–why is it every time I come by you have some type of delicious food description?? :) Makin’ me hungry!! I love books about the intricacies of relationships–I’ll definitely have to put this on the list (oh, and who doesn’t love reading about food??)

  10. zibilee says

    I like vivid writing that provokes an emotion in me. This sounds like something to investigate. Great author post as well. thanks!

  11. Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books says

    What a compliment to the author, that the book felt real, and you didn’t want it to end.

    This is the book that had the great quote about a woman pouring herself another glass of wine in response to a question she didn’t want to answer. I read that on your Teaser Tuesday a few weeks ago and added it to my Friday Finds.

    I liked reading Jennie Nash’s guest post, too (above).

  12. Dar says

    Jennie, thanks so much for stopping by. I think your novel is great that way-all of us have experienced loss and therefore can really connect with this story.

    Scrap Girl, I hope you’re doing ok…I’m bad for not taking enough pictures. I need to start taking more-there are so many wonderful memories contained in them.

    Sandy, I’m the same. Books about real life family relationships have to rank among my favorites all the time.

    Wendy, Madeleine, Jenn, Lilly, taterbug, Naida, Sam, Lisa, Jill, zibilee, Dawn, April, Diane —thanks so much:) It’s easy to write a good review of a book you liked. The only hard part is deciding how much of it to talk about since I tend to go on too much sometimes…lol.

    Wanda, the photography aspect would definitely give you a connection. There a few different ways to connect with this novel I think.

    Ramya, thanks—I can’t wait to see what your thoughts are on it. Then we can have a mini-chat. lol.

    Swapna, I look forward to seeing what you think. How do you stumble a review and where exactly does it go? Can someone tell me? I’m on Stumble—just haven’t figured it out yet. lol.

    Staci-it really did move me. I think it was the whole aspect of losing someone and then finding out things about them later on that helped you to understand them better.

    Trish, I laughed at your comment. Count on me to dig out a food description right. lol.

    Lenore, lol. I agree!

    Alyce, I’ll be watching for your review. I always love to see what others thought of a book I really liked.

  13. Joanne says

    Great review, this sounds like a really interesting read. I’ve always loved books that have characters who are realistic, so I liked the comment you made about this being “like a real story with real people.” The inherited success aspect also appeals to me, a woman who sees her fathers and daughters talent but hesitates on defining her own – very nice dynamic.

  14. Dar says

    Joanne, I really like books where I feel as though the characters are real. You know you feel like you can drop into the story and live it. I enjoyed the dynamic betweeen father, daughter and grand daughter-made all the more interesting because he had passed on already.

    Teddy, thanks.

    Anna, I really enjoyed the writing. I hope you’ll get to read it one day.


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