The Imposter Bride: Book summary and reviews of The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler

The Imposter Bride

By Nancy Richler

The Imposter Bride
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2013,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

An unforgettable novel about a mysterious mail-order bride in the wake of WWII, whose sudden disappearance ripples through time to deeply impact the daughter she never knew.

The Imposter Bride blends gorgeous storytelling and generation-spanning intrigue in the story of Lily Azerov. A young, enigmatic woman, Lily arrives in post-WWII Montreal on her own, expecting to be married to Sol Kramer. But, upon seeing her at the train station, Sol turns her down. Out of pity, his brother Nathan decides to marry her instead, and pity turns into a deep - and doomed - love. But it is immediately clear that Lily is not who she claims to be. Her attempt to live out her life as Lily Azerov shatters when she disappears, leaving a new husband and a baby daughter with only a diary, a large uncut diamond - and a need to find the truth.

Who is Lily and what happened to the young woman whose identity she stole? Why has she left and where did she go? It's up to the daughter Lily abandoned to find the answers to these questions, as she searches for the mother she may never find or truly know.

Shortlisted for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Richler's third novel explores emotional devastation that lasts generations, delivering a powerful punch." - Publishers Weekly

"Nancy Richler's new novel, The Imposter Bride, creates a world that places front and centre questions of identity and the kaleidoscope of facts that comprise a human being. … the award-winning Richler writes solid, evocative, well-paced prose." - Montreal Review of Books

"[A] hopeful testament to the power of family and memory, and the importance and meaning of one's name." - Winnipeg Free Press

"With this latest work, Richler delivers an intensely satisfying read, and cements her growing reputation as a fine contemporary Canadian novelist." - Montreal Gazette

"The human loss Richler records is incalculable... Ruthie is accustomed to the peculiarities and pathologies of the older generations; deep, psychological wounds that may ultimately explain her mother's disappearance. For those of us who are not children of survivors (I'm not), but who have friends who are (I do), and who have wondered (as I have) how a devastated Jewish family moves forward in faith and love and grace, this novel serves as a gut-wrenching education." - Globe & Mail

"As if the main themes of loss, familial relationships, abandonment, and rebirth were not enough, Richler further overburdens her story with token references to anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, social superiority, poverty, and gender roles. The effect is one of superficiality. Rather than focusing on themes that resonate through a handful of strong protagonists, Richler takes a scattershot approach in attempting to relay the experience of Jews in Montreal, and elsewhere, after the Second World War. It's all quite dizzying." - Quill & Quire

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Karen
Disappointing
I loved the premise of the book and wanted to find Lily perhaps even more than her daughter did. But I didn't find the characters or the storyline very compelling and only finished the book because I was supposed to write a review. While parts of it were well written, there was a disconnect throughout too much of it. I felt it was a book that didn't like up to its potential.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Carm D. (Omaha, NE)
The Imposter Bride
If you like mystery or historical novels this is the one to read. It kept my interest for most of the book, It did bog down a bit after about 1/2 way through but I would recommend this highly. It would especially be a great book club selection and I think it is the one I will choose when it's my turn. Looking forward to more from this author.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Sarah W. (Lufkin, TX)
The Imposter Bride
The Imposter Bride is a story of a family. Lily Azerov has immigrated to Montreal to marry a man she doesn't know. He takes one look at her and refuses to marry her. His brother, Nathan, comes to apologize but on seeing Lily decides to marry her. They marry and live with his mother until he is financially able to afford an apartment.

The story is told alternately by Lily; her daughter, Ruthie, whom she leaves when Ruthie is three months old; and a third person. Ruthie is lovingly cared for by her father and Elka, Nathan's sister-in-law who becomes her surrogate mother, his mother Bella, and Elka's mother, Ida Pearl.

When Ruthie is six years old she receives a package containing a piece of quartz and a note in her mother's handwriting telling where and when she picked up the rock. For the first time Ruthie begins to wonder about the woman who is her mother. Over the years she receives more rocks and with each her curiosity grows: where is her mother and why is she sending her the rocks?

Of the large cast of characters, Lily and Ruthie are the most vividly formed. The author provides this cast of characters to help tell the story. Throughout the novel we want to know who Lily is, why did she take on another's identity, why did she leave, will Ruthie ever find her, and why did she send rocks to Ruthie?

The main themes of the story are loss and family relationships. It is the opinion of this reviewer that many plot elements and scenes could easily have been left out without taking away from the overall story. The author does, however, manage in the end to make sense of the characters and events.

I would recommend the book to book clubs, especially those made up of women. They would probably want to discuss Lily, and Elka, Ida Pearl and Bella to see what they really added to the story and what their backgrounds were. And they would probably want to empathize with Ruthie, take her character apart, literally, and putting it back together with a better understanding of her.

I enjoyed the book even though it wasn't easy skipping from one narrator to the next. I would recommend the book to libraries, book clubs, and friends.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Sarah B. (Streamwood, IL)
Potential
I fel this book had potential, I flew through the first half of the book, and was enjoying it, but the second half felt like a slog. I normally love the changing of time periods as device, but I felt as though it fell flat in this book.
The book was enjoyable, but was not what I was expecting.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Martha L. (Warner, NH)
searching for answers
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler is story with a richness of emotions. The main character Ruth spends most of her life wondering about her mother, a woman who left within months of her birth. The tale begins with Ruth's mother's marriage to her father. Tied within that story is a story of the past with all the pain and anguish of being Jewish during WWIII in Europe.

The layers of the story that unfolded held the emotion that engages the reader. The characters with all their flaws were imminently vulnerable and endearing. The new life many Jews came for in Canada, specifically Toronto, after WWII is the setting of the story. With the story came the whispers of survival and ghosts of the lost.

The novel reads quite quickly and kept your attention. I did find it could be unrelenting at times with the heaviness of the story line, but not enough so to take away from the novel or readability. This was a quality book with a quality story. A four star book, albeit heavy with emotional turmoil.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kenan R. (Liberty, MO)
A Solid Read But...
It kept me too much at arms length. While the author did a great job of interesting me in Lily, her past, and her new family in Canada, I was left feeling distinctly unsatisfied by the answers I received. The characters were interesting, but not as vivid or textured as I had hoped. Perhaps it was a plot device to make us feel as disconnected from Lily as Julia, her abandoned child, was. A story told in alternating timelines about a mysterious young WWII Jewish refugee, her appropriation of dead woman's identity to escape to the safety of Canada to start over, and the daughter and husband she left behind when she could not bear to live out her lie could have been dense & rich. It read more like a cream puff to me. Nice, but not very filling.

...18 more reader reviews

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Nancy Richler's short fiction has been published in various American and Canadian literary journals, including The Fiddlehead, Room of One's Own, and The New Quarterly. Her previous novel, Your Mouth is Lovely, published in eleven countries, won the 2003 Canadian Jewish Book Award for fiction and Italy's 2004 Adei Wizo Award. Nancy is the cousin of the famed Canadian writer and literary critic Mordechai Richler. She lives in Montreal.

Visit her at http://www.nancyrichler.com

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