The Imposter Bride, by Nancy Richler, revolves around a Jewish family living in mid-20th century Montreal. The Holocaust casts a long shadow over them, as it does over so many in their social circle, most notably in the absence of Ruth’s mother, Lily. Lily left one day when Ruth was a baby. Called her sister-in-law over for coffee, then pretended she had to run to the corner for cream, and never came back. In the fridge was a shelf of bottles, and an apology. Ruth, fortunately, was surrounded by a large, close-knit family who loves her and whom she loves in return. She’s a happy girl – she has friends, does well in school. Eventually, Ruth meets WHO, gets married, and has children of her own. But the mother who left runs beneath her skin, like blood in her veins. Slowly, over many years, Ruth pieces together the story of why and how Lily left.
Richler paces herself, and that’s good – this is a lush, textured novel that doesn’t require any sprinting. The prose is pretty and polite. Takes its time while Richler guides us slowly from character to character, POV to POV. I think that might be my favourite thing about The Imposter Bride – the way we get to see people and events from one perspective, then another. It’s an effective way of layering reality, and manifesting Ruth’s complicated reaction to her mother (or lack thereof) – it’s neither maudlin nor hard-hearted. Just honest.But my attention drifted towards the end. I got bored. The stakes simply weren’t high enough. Ruth is a happy, functional woman with a happy, functional family. She makes friends, loves her father, finds a husband, has children of her own – all without her mother. So Lily’s absence, while clearly painful for Ruth, is essentially background noise. It doesn’t have enough of an impact to carry an entire novel, and certainly not one as long as The Imposter Bride.I’m not saying don’t read it – this is a good book, and Richer is a good writer. She just missed the ending.