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Catching Genius Paperback – March 6, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kiernan tests the bonds of sisterhood and goes to the well of family secrets and stunted connections in her easy-reading if maudlin debut. Sisters Estella and Connie grew apart early-Estella, a genius, began college at 12 and was the apple of their father's eye, while the younger Connie was blessed with good looks and a charming personality. Now in their 40s and after eight years of not speaking, the sisters are forced together to pack up their childhood home in Florida as their mother prepares to sell it. There are amends to be made and old wounds to be opened, and Kiernan handles the melodramatic moments with a light touch, though her prose can wander into purple territory ("It was as if we were both sunburned, flinching and shrieking at every touch, real or imagined"). Chapters that alternate between the sisters' perspectives reveal the miscommunication between them, and though Connie's self-deprecating humor keeps the novel from becoming too heavy, the climax is overdone and drawn-out. Still, it is a moving novel about forgiveness and the fragility of family.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Kiernan's debut novel tells the story of two all-but-estranged sisters, Estella and Connie, who grew apart after Estella was discovered to be a math prodigy at the age of seven. Now in their forties, the sisters come together to clean out their childhood home on the island of Big Dune. Connie, a married mother of two boys, has finally grown tired of her husband Luke's constant infidelity and is contemplating ending their marriage. Estella tutors college students in math and boards several of them in the house she shares with her boyfriend, Paul. Neither sister is looking forward to the task at hand, and when they arrive, they find things are just as strained between them as they feared they would be. Gradually they start opening up to each other, but as the rest of the family joins them on the island, Estella realizes that she has to make a confession that could end their newfound friendship. A warm, moving novel about the power of familial bonds. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; 1st edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425214354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425214350
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #950,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Raised in affluence in Florida, Estella and Connie Sykes may be sisters, but are also best friends. That is until Estella, two years older than Connie, catches the dreaded "eyecue", whatever that is. Fearing for her beloved normal sibling, Estella drifts away from Connie, hurting her sister who does not understand why. Estella is a math prodigy while Connie is a norm.

Now years later, the two sisters still not close, return to their Gulf Coast home to help their mom sell the family house. As they work on what to toss, what to give away, what to sell, and what to keep, their past as precocious partners and the subsequent split when they were seven and five respectively surfaces forcing both especially the elder to reveal family truths.

Alternating perspective, CATCHING GENIUS is a delightful look at how childhood relationships make the adults. Out of innocence and a real concern for her younger sister, Estella finds the road to hell paved with her good intentions. Though the Connie sections seem more insightful as the audience feels her decades old still lingering hurt while not quite understanding how Estella coped over the years, readers will appreciate Kristy Kiernan's poignant look at the changing relationship between two sisters.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Paperback
First off, one of the bad reviews had some incorrect information and apparently the reviewer did not read through to the end. I don't typically write reviews (more a fan of listmania) but I enjoyed this book quite a bit and was sad to finish it. It's about Connie and Estella, two sisters who were close in their childhood but then are separated by a parent who is clearly consumed by one child's "giftedness". The story unfolds with the perfect amount of information and drama to keep one wanting more. The author wrote a solid, believable story, she certainly did her research.
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Format: Paperback
Okay - I'll admit - I read the reviews and thought, "Oh, no - another "sister" book - filled with anger, guilt, recriminations, angst and reconciliation. I decided not to read it. But, luckily someone recommended it to me, and since I didn't have anything else to read, I read it. This book was so good that I couldn't bear to put it down. And it's by a new author so I can look forward to more books from her! I'm recommending Catching Genius to everyone I know.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great story about two sisters who were best friends as children, but became very far apart as they got older. The story shows the ideas and beliefs from the view point of both sisters. Anyone who has a sister can relate.
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Format: Paperback
I was trying to give this 3 1/2 stars but I guess that doesn't work here. ;)

The writing is good. I might suggest Ms Kiernan try her hand at mystery writing, in fact, because part of the reason I kept reading--maybe the main reason-- was that I was trying to figure out:

Is Estella mentally or physically sick? Did I misinterpret the earlier part of the prologue at the beach scene? If not,what really happened and why? At the end of the book I had a better idea but it still wasn't 'crystal clear'.

I also liked the development of Connie/Estella's mother and the resolution of personal and familial conflicts. And of course the book's main claim to fame: insiders view to what it might be like to have a math prodigy in the family, which depended partly on how it was handled.

Some of the things I didn't like: The long banter at the table with students on a subject with which I was already familiar, and presented as though the author is trying to teach us. As a Christian, I didn't appreciate some of the strong sexual allusions and the final "it's enough for now" encounter [I won't spoil it too much] although it might not qualify as 'casual sex' since their relationship is also seems to be moving forward.
I also didn't understand some of Connie's reactions, such as thinking she didn't speak out strongly enough to her soon to be ex, and why she would put up with her husband's infidelity for so long. Here again, an element of mystery enters in, at least for me. But with all that, I'll give her the extra half star for her compelling writing, as with a mystery, I could hardly put it down.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Admittedly, my interest and enjoyment of Catching Genius went through a few stages as I read. The beginning quickly drew me in to the tale of the two sisters - Estella and Connie - and their fragmented past. The next bunch of chapters tended to drag on a little bit, but thankfully by the middle and throughout to the end, Catching Genius grew on me and I sped forward to the end happy with the story overall.

As of late, I've found myself really enjoying books that are set by the beach and tell the stories of characters that grew up in beach houses in beach communities. I personally grew up in a residential community in the mountains which somehow makes the idea of growing up by the beach take on a very foreign, very romantic, "oh that sounds so nice," type of feel. It just sounds incredibly peaceful, and I enjoyed the second half of this book much better than the beginning probably due in good part to that fact.

I like that Kiernan moved the novel forward, that the characters had progressions, but at the same time that she didn't end everything all tied nicely in a bow. Sometimes I appreciate that, but I think in this case, a little sense of the uncertain is necessary. The novel is about rebuilding and repairing relationships and at the novel's end it appears as if more of the journey is still to take place.

Overall, Kiernan's style suited me. She had a pretty balanced mix of flashbacks and chapters that covered present day, and her transitions flowed well between the two. She had details, but not too many that I got bored, and her writing was clear and not overdone. I was impressed with her debut novel and will definitely look to read her next book in the future.
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