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Nancy Richler – March 7 talk at Octopus Books

By Alejandro Bustos on March 6, 2013


Nancy Richler is a fantastic writer and is a joy to read.  Luckily for local book lovers, the Montreal-native will be in Ottawa on Thursday discussing her latest novel The Imposter Bride, a beautifully written story that focuses on a heartbreaking mother-daughter relationship.

The novel begins with a mysterious European woman who arrives in Montreal from Palestine just after World War Two.  Set to marry Sol, a man who she has never met, she is told on arrival by her husband-to-be that he no longer wishes to marry her.  Amidst this rejection, it becomes clear that the enigmatic woman is not who she says she is, and that she has stolen the identity of a dead woman back in Europe.

Despite this, Sol’s brother Nathan asks the enigmatic woman if she would be his wife, and after she says yes the couple gets married.  They soon have a girl named Ruth, and settle into a domestic life in Montreal.

The woman’s painful past, however, is something that she cannot escape. One day she disappears, leaving her baby girl with her father and family.  The reader is left with only questions. Who is this woman?  Where did she go?  Why did she steal the identity of a dead woman? And most importantly, at least for Ruth who is now a little girl, why did her mother abandoned her, only to suddenly start sending her strange rocks from different regions in Canada?

Richler’s writing is excellent.  To give you a sense of her skill, consider the following passage in Ruth’s voice as she observed a teacher at school:

I was twelve before I saw an adult cry.   I’d seen adult eyes fill with tears before then, the time Elka was wearing a brand-new black dress when Sol came home from work, for example, and he looked at her and said, ‘What’s that?’  But if Elka’s tears spilled over into crying when she fled the kitchen that day (Sol hot on her heels, apologizing) I didn’t see that.  Nor did I see anything but moistness in my father’s eyes when Old Yeller died or when the dreaded doctor’s call came for Bella and the news turned out to be good.  When the adults in my life cried they did it behind closed doors.  Until Mr. C, my sixth grade teacher, who handed out a quiz one November afternoon, then stood by the window with tears running down his cheeks.

The emotion that best describes this book is beautiful sadness.  While filled with loss and heartache, this chronicle of a young girl’s search for her mother is told in a very moving way.  It is therefore no surprise that the book was a shortlisted nominee for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Equally, I nodded my head in agreement when I learned that her first novel Throwaway Angels was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel, while her second book Your Mouth Is Lovely won the 2003 Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction and the 2004 Adei Wizo Award.  After being very impressed with her most recent book I plan to read her first two works.

Nancy Richler’s talk will takes place on March 7 at 7 p.m. at the Centretown location of Octopus Books, located at 251 Bank Street, 2nd Floor.  Tickets costs $5 in advance, $8 at the door. To buy tickets online you click here.