Catching Genius
Kristy Kiernan

Berkley Trade
Trade Paperback/0 pages
ISBN: 0-425-21435-4
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"Catching Genius is a good read… I enjoyed it enough to read through to the climactic ocean storm and on to the happy ending."

This first novel is a soap opera in which two long-estranged sisters spend a week at the family's soon-to-be-sold summer house. During the week, they uncover an endless list of family secrets and cope with all-too-human problems ranging from a long buried murder to the teenager of the family having trouble passing algebra. Catching Genius is a good read. The foreground story of adultery and divorce is far more vivid and persuasive than the back stories that litter the cottage like dust bunnies. Not only is it what some people might call a beach book, it actually takes place at the beach. Even though I am not a fan of the genre, I enjoyed it enough to read through to the climactic ocean storm and on to the happy ending.

The title alludes to the novel’s major theme. The older of the two sisters, Estella, is a 43-year-old math whiz who was such a child prodigy that she was sent to college at age twelve, the genius that the title alludes to. The younger sister, Connie, is a talented musician who grew up feeling overshadowed by the brilliance of Estella (which means star). Although Kiernan goes to considerable lengths to show us that both sisters are gifted in their own ways, she spends much energy on establishing Connie as being traumatized by having a genius sibling. When Connie's younger son proves to be a gifted composer, Connie is so horrified that you would think he was a gifted shoplifter, and the reader may lose patience, if not sympathy, with her.

One final note of caution: This is the kind of book that is festooned with blurbs and jacket copy that refer to the writing as luminous, lyrical, and gorgeous. That kind of hyperbole always makes me nervous. What I want to read is writing that is so transparently effective that no one remembers to festoon it with adjectives.
Reviewer: Elizabeth Hadas