The Imposter Bride

By – January 29, 2013

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.

Discussion Questions

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 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?