After she crosses two oceans, Lily Azerov learns that her prospective husband no longer wants her. Fortunately, his brother steps in and offers to marry her instead.
But Lily, the imposter bride, has more pressing problems. Described as a “broken bird” by her mother-in-law, this fragile woman cannot adapt to her new life in post-WWII Montreal. She has stolen a dead woman’s identity and feels survivor’s guilt as she absorbs memories, dreams and fantasies that do not belong to her. After giving birth to a daughter, Lily leaves Montreal.
The book alternates between chapters told in third person and those narrated by Lily and her daughter, Ruth. As Ruth matures, she becomes more curious about the mysterious mother who left behind an uncut diamond and a Yiddish notebook.
The larger cast of characters includes other broken souls, among them Bella, who lost three children during the Russian Revolution, and Ida Pearl, a local jeweller who was abandoned by a philandering husband. Each of the characters claims to have some insight into why Lily really left.
Canadian novelist Nancy Richler has written a compelling story that will keep you reading well into the night.