The Imposter Bride
St. Martin's Press
Set in Montreal after World War II, Nancy Richler’s third novel, The Imposter Bride, explores the relationships between trauma and its aftermath, the complexities of identity, and the intergenerational bonds of family. The events of the novel are set in motion when Lily Azerov steps off a train in Montreal to greet Sol Kramer, a man whom she has never met but has agreed to marry, only to have him reject her on the spot. When Lily marries Sol’s brother Nathan, a guest realizes that Lily is not the bride’s real name, which raises questions about Lily’s actual identity then and in the years following the birth of her daughter Ruth.
In many ways The Imposter Bride unfolds like a mystery. The reader as well as the characters must piece together fragments of information about the past in order to discover the actual identity of Ruth’s mother, what her life was like before the war, what happened to her during the war, and where she went after leaving Montreal. By structuring the book in this way, Richler explores the irrevocable psychological and familial ruptures that occurred as a result of World War II.
Richler’s writing style is compelling and the way in which the narrative alternates between points of view and time periods and creates wonderful descriptions of characters and landscapes.
By exploring how the past has been preserved and how information has been passed down within a family, Richler emphasizes the extent to which, through stories, the secrets of the past can be unraveled.
Read Nancy Richler's Posts for the Visiting Scribe
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 World War II? 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?