To placate "Grannam," Andrea telephones to tell her that she is pregnant, despite the fact that she is incapable of bearing children. In this single moment, the couple figuratively conceives a child when no literal being exists. With Grannam naturally thrilled (and mailing large checks to show it), there's no turning back. They download and manipulate ultrasound images from the internet, call friends with The News, and embark on birthing a concept-child--"Genia" who exists only in lies, digitally-altered photographs, and fragments of whatever bits of parenting culture the couple has gleaned from their fieldtrips to playgrounds and shopping malls.
Olsen nimbly juxtaposes this plot against a montage of 12 photographs, whose subjects may or may not be Girl's principal characters. Each "chapter" of the novel begins with a photograph, followed immediately by a meditation on the nature of representation and reproduction. This play between image/text and fiction/criticism leaves both Olsen and his narrator on deliberately shaky ground, and it's precisely this tension which saves the novel from becoming another by-product of the Oprah-ization of literary fiction in the United States. TREVOR DODGE