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’s first book of fiction, Simple Recipes, won four awards in Canada, was a finalist for a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, and was named a notable book by the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. Originally from Vancouver, Thien recently moved to Quebec City.
“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.”