Ruth becomes aware of this need, first, when she is six years old, but that is just the beginning.
It is not, however, the beginning of The Imposter Bride; Nancy Richler's novel begins with Ruth's mother.
Readers are introduced to Ruth's mother on the novel's first page, but years before she gives birth to Ruth. Readers meet her as a young woman who has travelled to Montreal in 1947 to marry a man who is meeting her at the train station.
Her arrival, however, precipitates a change of heart; Sol no longer wants to marry her. (This is not a spoiler, really, as readers learn of these events on the novel's first two pages.)
And so begins the series of insinuations as people slip into and out of each other's lives, inviting intimacies and then denying them.
"What man would insinuate himself into a woman’s private moment, as he just had, practically depositing himself onto her lap? The same man, she supposed, who would invite a woman to cross two oceans to marry him and then leave her at the station because she didn’t suit his mood on the day of her arrival."
So the book does begin with Ruth's mother arriving in Montreal, but the story does not begin there.
One could say that Ruth's story begins there (because Sol refuses the marriage and his brother, Nathan, offers marriage instead, and that's how Nathan becomes Ruth's father) but Ruth's story spirals around her mother's past.
"But now, at this moment, as she felt the reassuring weight of the new journal in her hand, a weight that gave substance to what she had dreamed and imagined, she felt she had arrived at the beginning."
Except that this beginning for Ruth's mother? It's from closer to the middle of the novel, which alternates between chapters told from each perspective, mother and daughter.
Ruth's mother has felt as though she arrived at the beginning on so many occasions. She no longer knows where she begins.
And readers know from the moment they pick up the novel that the bride is an imposter. Its author, however, is the real deal.
Nancy Richler spins a complicated and rewarding story. The Imposter Bride is the answer Ruth seeks or, more accurately, it is the process by which Ruth seeks to satisfy that basic human need to know where she came from, to connect it with who she is and where she is going.
"I sat for a long while with my fingertips resting on the first page of my mother’s notebook, and there was definitely a pulsing coming from it. "
The pulse that Nancy Richler's novel emits is a powerful one; it reads easily (like Ami McKay's The Birth House, Lilian Nattal's The River Midnight, Donna Morrissey's Kit's Law) but the story settles heavily in the reader's heart.
A much longer and more detailed discussion of this work appears on BuriedInPrint.