Madeleine Thien’s stunning debut novel fulfills all her early promise and introduces a young novelist of vision, maturity, and style.
Gail Lim, a producer of radio documentaries in present-day Vancouver, finds herself haunted by events in her parents’ past in wartorn Asia, a past which remains a mystery that fiercely grips her imagination.
As a child, Gail’s father, Matthew Lim, wandered the Leila Road and the jungle fringe with his lovely Ani, a girl whose early bond with Matthew will affect his life always. As children, they found themselves together under the terrifying shadow of war in Japanese-occupied Sandakan, Malaysia. The war shatters their families and splits the two apart until years later, when they remeet only to be separated again. The legacy of their connection is later inherited by Matthew’s wife, Clara, in unexpected ways.
Gail’s journey to unravel the mystery of her parents’ lives takes her to Amsterdam, where she meets the war photographer Sipke, who tells his story of Ani and their relationship, which began in Jakarta, a story that will bring Gail face to face with the complications in her own life and lead her closer to the truth.
Vivid, poignant, wise, at once sweeping and intimate, Certainty is a novel about the legacies of loss, about the dislocations of war and the redemptive qualities of love. Thien reveals herself as a novelist of rare and potent talent.
MADELEINE THIEN is the author of the story collection Simple Recipes, which was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, a Kiriyama Pacific Prize Notable Book, and won the BC Book Prize for Fiction; the novel Certainty, which won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award; and the novel Dogs at the Perimeter, which was shortlisted for Berlin’s 2014 International Literature Award and won the Frankfurt Book Fair’s 2015 Liberaturpreis. Her most recent novel, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her novels and stories have been translated into twenty-five languages, and her essays have appeared in Granta, The Guardian, the Financial Times, Five Dials, Brick and Al Jazeera. Her story “The Wedding Cake” was shortlisted for the prestigious 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. The daughter of Malaysian-Chinese immigrants to Canada, she lives in Montreal.
Now in paperback
“Intricate and elegiac. . . . Written in powerful and uncluttered prose that cuts to the heart of grief.”
— Ottawa Citizen
“A moving, richly textured and immaculately nuanced study of war, grief, displacement, love, renewal.”
— Montreal Review of Books
“Thien’s clear-eyed, austere writing is a thing of simple beauty. . . . A wise and thoughtful debut.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“Certainty is poised to become an inter-national literary bestseller and . . . the most popular Canadian novel since Miriam Toews’s A Complicated Kindness . . . as well known as The English Patient. . . . If all that happens, it’s ever so well deserved.”
— Globe and Mail
“I am astonished by the clarity and ease of the writing, and a kind of emotional purity.”
— Alice Munro
“The austere grace and polished assurance of her prose [is] remarkable.”
— New York Times Book Review
“Thien weaves dark magic.”