This was a really great premise and, for most of the novel, a richly-realized piece of historical fiction. It reminded me a little of Amy Bloom’s Away, though The Imposter Bride is set about twenty years later and in Canada rather than the US. Both novels feature young Jewish women named Lily/Lillian who emigrate to North America after horrific experiences in Eastern Europe that have left them deeply scarred. Lily Azerov’s biggest secret is that she isn’t Lily Azerov; she stole that name and identity from another woman. Arriving in Montreal, she’s rejected by the young man who had arranged to marry her sight-unseen, but then marries his brother instead. But soon after having a baby, Lily finds herself unable to stay in the new life she’s created under her new identity and makes a decision that will impact not only her husband and daughter but their whole extended family.
It’s a great set-up; it totally pulled me in and made me want to find out how things all worked out. Most of the story is actually told from the point of view of Lily’s daughter, Ruth, who tries to piece together hints and clues about her mother’s past and present life. The novel sets up a wonderful, intriguing, character-driven mystery — and then fails to deliver on its promises in the final chapters. A lot of questions have been raised throughout the first part of the novel; I could accept that at the end, we wouldn’t like the answers we got — but to not get them at all was frustrating. Although this novel was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and certainly deserved that on the basis of its writing, I found the ending a big disappointment. Not every reader will agree, and if the premised pulls you in, by all means go ahead and read it. If you disagree with me about the ending let me know in comments!