The blurb on the book compares Kiernan to Picoult and Shreve. I could see that. She tackles big controversial topics. I think I might also compare her to Patti Callahan Henry, due to the Southern setting and the focus on island life.
I read Kiernan's second book (Matters of Faith) a while ago and was quite excited to read her first book. Catching Genius was incredibly engrossing. Yet another book about a family with secrets and drama. And yet it isn't cliche. The story is mostly about two sisters: Connie, who felt her whole life was altered by the discovery of her sister's "genius" IQ, and Estella, who in many ways suffered due to this "diagnosis." Now in middle age, the sisters are brought together for the first time in twelve years to clean out their former house, a beach house that stores many happy memories for Connie, and many sad memories for Estella. The sisters come together not really understanding the reality of the other's life. Estella believes her sister has a perfect life and family. In reality, Connie's husband is a serial cheater and she is in the process of divorcing him. She has two sons, a high school student named Gib who is flunking algebra and a young elementary school aged son named Carson who is potentially a gifted musical composer. Connie, on the other hand, believes her sister is a genius. The reality is that Estella has had many of her own challenges including serious surgery and sexual abuse. Through a tumultuous stay in their former home the girls learn the truth about one another, and open themselves up to viewing the past through a new lens.
There is a lot of hard life events in this book; but both of the female protagonists grow as do almost all of the characters in the novel (with the exception of Connie's jerk of a husband). The story offers a true slice of life full of the variety of surprises that exist in every family. It's hard not to love the characters, and to root for them to get the ending they deserve.