Book Review: Girl Imagined by Chance

Girl Imagined by ChanceGirl Imagined by Chance by Lance Olsen

Sometimes it’s really exciting when a bookclub book isn’t something you’d normally pick up for yourself… And sometimes you find yourself slogging through chapter after chapter of drek, wondering when you’ll get to the end.

“Girl Imagined by Chance” is the story of an East Coast couple in the middle of an existential crisis. Wanting to escape their meaningless lives and crappy jobs, they move to the backwoods of Idaho. Even this doesn’t quite do the trick, however- Andi, the wife, struggles to find her own photographic “voice,” and the unnamed husband, our narrator, becomes less and less interested in the digital gallery he manages. Hanging over them is Andi’s grandmother, who wants nothing more than to see a great-grandchild before she passes on.

The couple takes the most logical course of action, and invents a child to placate dear old granny- an infant daughter named Genia. They become so involved in the fiction as to baby-proof their house and buy a crib. On the eve of her “birth,” they sit in front of the hospital and devour pints of ice cream. Doctored sonograms pulled off the internet and fake snapshots of baby Genia get sent for Great-Grandma’s approval.

All of this would make for a pretty interesting novel… if it had been written by someone else. Lance Olsen, however, fills the pages with the narrator’s (and, one assumes, his own) second-person pontifications about the ephemeral nature of photography, how it lacks any underlying truth, how every moment is completely contextual and there is no “reality” to speak off… As my second grade teacher would have said, show us, don’t tell us, Lance. There are more effective ways to get your point across then having your narrator meditate on it at length.

If there’s a story similar to this, that lacks a philosophic treatise on photographic and uses third-party narration, someone point me in that direction. Otherwise, my only recommendation is to avoid “Girl Imagined by Chance.”

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