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

The Imposter Bride

by Nancy Richler

The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler X
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2013
    384 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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About this book

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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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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Duane F. (Cape Girardeau, MO)

The Imposter Wife
Nancy Richler presents the reader with a wonderful story of how families are the very soul of a person. She tenderly renders her characters so that we see their strengths and thus, also their weaknesses. These two families struggle with the identity of a young woman who arrives from Israel after World War II to marry a complete stranger she has only been introduced by a supposed cousin through correspondence. Today, this seems far from ideal. Yet in post WWII, it is the answer to any future at all for all too many survivors. The disaster which so many displaced Jews faced, causes many of the victims to have to prove their identity to find a way to survive the aftermath of the Holocaust and leave Germany. Most had survived horrendous circumstance, leaving them shattered, alone and desperate.

Enter, Lilly, a young woman spurned by the young man she thought would save her and help her build her new life. Amazingly, Sol's brother steps in and asks her to marry him instead. She agrees. One might think this book is now going to be about how she pines away after the man who left her to stand alone at the train station, but they would be wrong.

These two brothers both have fallen in love with her spirit and determination to overcome her humble and horrific past. She has traveled thousands of miles to arrive to be assimilated into their family.

Lilly, however has a secret that she feels would shock this family and change her her chances of acceptance. Upon this fact so turns the future of all. The choices this family makes with their heads, while not considering their hearts, isolates them all. Theirs is not a flaw of lies but rather of omissions. All too soon the walls will begin to shift and Lilly will be faced with a terrible decision that will haunt her new born daughter for the rest of her life.

I could not put this book down, I read it almost straight through. The character are so richly presented, the plot so well constructed and the ultimate outcome so beautifully told. I dog eared many pages and highlighted several passages. MS. Richler has given us a book filled with heart and wisdom and yet rings boldly the sound of reality.

This is a book I plan to present to both my book clubs. If it were published, it would on my gift list as well. Enjoy!

Donna W. (Wauwatosa, WI)

The Imposter Bride
I was hooked on this book from the minute I started reading until the satisfying end.

This was an excellent unfolding of a story from 2 different perspectives- first the actual story of " The Imposter Bride" and second the story through the eyes of the daughter she left behind.

The author has a beautiful way of making the characters come alive, and an interesting way of exploring relationships, particularly between mothers and daughters. The book is not action packed, instead it is a character driven story dealing with family in the aftermath of World War II, and there is a bit of mystery blended. All in all a very satisfying read.

Rosanne S. (Franklin Square, New York)

A Diamond of a Book
The summary of The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler intrigued me enough to want to read it. It surpassed my expectations.

Lily arrives in Montreal just after World War II. It has been arranged that she would travel to Montreal from Palestine to meet and marry Sol Kramer. Upon her arrival at the train station, Sol has a change of mind and abandons her there. It is Nathan, Sol's brother, who takes pity on his brother's rejected bride and marries her instead. Lily's traveling papers identify her as Lily Azerov but they are just papers after all. Lily took documents from a dead woman named Lily and traveled with her identity. This was not an uncommon practice after the war, as refugees needed proper papers in order to travel. What "Lily" doesn't realize is that coincidence has placed her with the family of the real Lily. Along with identifying papers Lily takes an uncut diamond that the dead Lily had in her possession.

The qualities of the uncut diamond mirror the story that follows. Like the rough diamond, Lily, her daughter Ruthie and the entire cast of characters have many facets to them. Cut the diamond incorrectly, it will shatter and be worthless. Cut and polished correctly, it will be invaluable. Generation after generation leaves the diamond intact. Generation after generations never discuss the past leaving it imagined.

The Imposter Bride was a strong and engaging novel. The character development was deep and rich. At times, the flow of the story was a bit confusing but it gave the reader the sense of angst that Ruthie was experiencing. I love to become invested in a story and Richler's expert telling made it easy. I highly recommend The Imposter Bride. This would make an excellent book club choice.

Elizabeth M. (Syracuse, New York)

Stones to Fill the Empty Places
I have read lots of novels about people experiencing the Holocaust and WW II. However, this is the first novel I have read that addresses the emptiness that comes from having lived through that kind of pervasive fear and death and how a person can forge a life after.
The story is about two women, Lilly and her daughter Ruthie and how they deal with the physical and psychic losses that have occurred in their lives.
I really enjoyed the way that the author was able to inhabit the heads of many different characters in the novel and make their motivations understandable. I also liked the way in which certain key pieces of information about the mysteries of Lilly's life were doled out in a way that didn't seem contrived, but still held on to the tension of wondering how those mysteries would be resolved.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys novels about immigrants or about mothers and daughters or about anyone who is interested in learning about European refugees after World War II.

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.

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.

...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.

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