A young woman arrives in post-war Montreal to marry a man she has never met. But when Lily Azerov steps off the train, her fiancee takes one look at her and leaves. Her would-be brother-in-law takes pity on her and marries her but it quickly becomes apparent to those around her that Lily isn't who she claims to be. And when she disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter, all of the questions surrounding her identity remain unanswered.
As her daughter Ruth grows older she begins to wonder about her mother. Who was she, why did she leave, and where did she go? With only a few clues, she sets out to find the real woman behind the mother she never knew.
The Imposter Bride, by Nancy Richler, is an incredible novel full of mystery, heartache, love and longing. From the first page I was drawn into the story and mystery of Lily Azerov and I didn't want to put it down until all of the questions were answered. Richler does a fantastic job of not giving away too much right at the beginning while at the same time not dragging the story along.
This novel was shortlisted for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was my pick as the winner (though not the actual winner.) It was such a beautiful story, I really enjoyed the characters and how developed they all were. It was a great idea to tell the story of Lily from the perspective of her daughter trying to find out more about her as she grew over the years, rather than just telling the story of Lily. Chapters jump between time and people but it works in this book, it's not disjointed or confusing.
I did find the ending to be a little anti-climactic just because I found myself so wrapped up in the story and so invested in Ruth discovering the truth about her mother that it all felt just a little too quick in the end. However, the rest of the book certainly makes up for what it lacks there.
Richler is a beautiful writer. She transported me to a time and places that I have no experience with. The book takes place in Montreal, Poland and Palestine, beginning around World War II, in Jewish communities. And yet, I never felt like I couldn't place myself there while I read. That is an incredible feat for a writer to be able to do that for the reader. As I mentioned above, this is my favourite book from my reading of the 2012 Giller season and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good character driven story.