The Imposter Bride

Written by Nancy Richler
Review by Audrey Braver

The imposter bride is Lily Azerov, a Jewish refugee from post-World War II Europe who comes to Montreal to marry Sol Kramer, with whom she has been corresponding.  At the train station, Sol takes one look at Lily and leaves her stranded. His brother, Nathan, steps into the breach and marries Lily. At their wedding, Sol meets Elka, his future bride, whose mother Ida Pearl happens to be Lily Azerov’s cousin. However, Ida doesn’t believe the bride is her cousin.

One day Lily disappears, leaving behind her three-month-old daughter, Ruth, a notebook full of dreams, a blank notebook, and an uncut diamond. On Ruth’s sixth birthday, after not hearing from her mother since her mysterious disappearance, a package containing a rock arrives for the child.  It is from Lily, who continues to send rocks for most of Ruth’s birthdays – and then suddenly the presents stop.  Each time the rocks arrive, Ruth puts the wrapping and the card in a scrapbook.  This is all she knows of her mother, but considers it proof that her mother still loves her. Despite growing up without maternal love, Ruth is a well-balanced, loving young woman.  And then she and Lily meet again.

Nancy Richler has written a complex novel.  Ruth’s search for the answer to the perplexing question of why her mother abandoned her and her father is compelling. However, the explanation of Lily’s true identity, her tragic past, and her connection to the real Lily Azerov comes at the end of the novel, when the reader is so disconnected from the plot that it seems anti-climactic.