The Imposter Bride
Nancy Richler, 2012
St. Martin's Press
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler is an unforgettable novel about a mysterious mail-order bride in the wake of WWII, whose sudden decision ripples through time to deeply impact the daughter she never knew
In the wake of World War II, a young, enigmatic woman named Lily arrives in Montreal on her own, expecting to be married to a man she’s never met. But, upon seeing her at the train station, Sol Kramer turns her down. Out of pity, his brother Nathan decides to marry her instead, and pity turns into a deep—and doomed—love. 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. (From the publisher.)
• Where—Montreal, Quebec, Canada
• Education—Brandeis University
• Awards—Canadian Jewish Book Award; Adel
Wizo Award; shortlist, Soctiabank Giller Prize
• Currently—lives in Montreal, Quebec
Nancy Richler is a Canadian novelist. Born in Montreal, Quebec in 1957, she spent much of her adult life and career in Vancouver, British Columbia before returning to Montreal in the early 2010s.
Richler published her first novel, Throwaway Angels, in 1996. The novel was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her 2003 novel Your Mouth Is Lovely won the 2003 Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction and the 2004 Adei Wizo Award. Her 2012 novel The Impostor Bride was a shortlisted nominee for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
She lives with her partner Vicki Trerise, a lawyer and mediator, in Montreal. (From Wikipedia.)
Richler is back, and with an elegant, ambitious, accomplished new work.
Toronto Globe and Mail
A hopeful testament to the power of family and memory, and the importance and meaning of one’s name.
Winnipeg Free Press
Richler’s third novel explores emotional devastation that lasts generations, delivering a powerful punch. In post-WWII Montreal, Canada, Lily Kramer, a young refugee, marries Nathan, the brother of the man with whom she had corresponded and who, after catching his first glimpse of his bride-to-be, refused to marry her. But Lily is no saint herself, and not who she portrays herself to be. Told in alternating chapters, Lily’s life after marrying Nathan is juxtaposed with the life of her daughter, Ruth, abandoned soon after she was born. Two notebooks and a mysterious diamond are all that remain for Ruth of her mother, along with a need to know the truth (“Could a person really lose her very sense of self because the world that formed and reflected that self back to her was destroyed?”). Richler—whose previous novel, Your Mouth Is Lovely, won the 2003 Canadian Jewish Book Award—perfectly captures Lily’s heartbreak and the secrets that she keeps. Chapter by chapter the wrenching secrets of the Kramer family peel away, until finally what Lily has hidden is revealed. Once the truth comes, it is heartbreaking.
Richler infuses her work with iconic images from the era she covers, painting a rich image of the Canadian Jewish community, their customs and family relationships, in a past century… A beautiful tale.
1. What does the novel suggest about whether families are born or made?
2. Why do you think Lily chose to communicate with her daughter through rocks as opposed to words?
3. There are many secrets in The Imposter Bride, beginning with Lily's true identity. What secrets do other characters keep, and how do you think the secrets ultimately help or hurt their loved ones?
4. Lily attempts to sever her childhood and the difficult years in her homeland completely from her adult life. Is that ever really possible? Is it healthier to leave everything behind?
5. Why do you think Lily went to the home of the relative of the girl whose identity she had stolen?
6. The Imposter Bride shifts time periods and narratives several times, sometimes providing different perspectives of the same event. Are there any characters you wished had revealed more of their own perspective? In what ways does this structure reflect the experience of an individual within a family?
7. Why did some people have to take the identity papers of others at the end of WW2? Why did Lily feel she had to? Do you feel she had to?
8. What purposes were served for her by assuming the identity of another person?
9. Do you feel Lily bore any responsibility in the death of the girl whose identity she stole? Do the demands of morality/moral agency shift or change when a person is in danger or has been victimized?
10. Lily's behavior toward her daughter could be perceived as cold, distant, and uncaring. How do you see her attempts to communicate, and her treatment of Ruth later in life?
11. How do the main characters perceive loyalty? Does the abandonment of a parent affect Ruth's adult relationships?
12. Many of the characters in The Imposter Bride walk the line between selfishness and compassion. What does The Imposter Bride tell you about forgiveness? Do you agree with Ruth's forgiveness of the women in her life?
13. The conclusion of Ruth's relationship with her mother may be unexpected for some readers. Do you think it's realistic? After years of romanticizing her mother, does Ruth find what she was hoping for?
14. How were you affected when Ruth read the letter from her deceased grandmother? The letter from her own mother?
15. Did you find the conclusion satisfying?
(Questions issued by publisher.)
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