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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler

Lily Azerov comes to Canada from Israel in 1946 to marry a man she's never met. Every decision she makes has long-lasting effects on everyone whose life she touches, most especially on her daughter, Ruth.

Lily abandons her new family when Ruth is a tiny baby, leaving tidbits of information about who she was and why she left that Ruth has to piece together over the course of her life. As Ruth grows and evolves, she learns that curiosity about her origins is the most human thing about herself. It only takes her as long as it does because so may people love Ruth and think they're protecting her by not revealing what they know. None of the decisions are judged in the book as good or bad. They just are.

As I grew to suspect as I read on, the entire book is revealed to have been written by Ruth after she's pieced together enough information. This explains why the sections told in the first person, from Ruth's point of view, are quite a bit more stable than the others. By stable, I mean that when we're in Ruth's point of view, we stay there. In the other sections, two or more characters can have a conversation and see into the thoughts of all of them. It's easy enough to follow, but I always think it's more realistic if we only have one point of view at a time. And think how much more mystery there could have been! In the end, it's appropriate that Ruth would try to empathize with each of the characters and parse their emotional responses as the story goes along. It lends an authority to the text that it could never really have if these were true events, but that just shows the way fiction is truer than fact.

The author has created an entire convincing world. She tells a story about survival and secrets that normally wouldn't be told, but it touches all human beings. The characters are fascinating and familiar at the same time, and the writing is frequently exquisite. I recommend this book for just about any reader.