A vivid, moving novel reminiscent of Anthony Doerr and Michael Ondaatje, about the entwined fates of two very different refugees.
In 1940, as the shadow of war lengthens over Europe, three mysterious travelers enter a village in Spain. They have the appearance of Parisian intellectuals, but the trio of two men and a woman are starving and exhausted from crossing illegally through the Pyrenees. Their story, told over a period of 48 tense hours, is narrated by one of the men, who slowly accepts his unthinkable fate. In a voice despairing and elegant, he calmly considers what he should do, and weighs what any one life means. As he does so, his attention is caught by a five-year-old named Pia who wanders near his cafe table. To Pia he begins to address all that he thinks and feels in his final hours--envisioning a rich future life for her that both reflects and contrasts with his own.
Meanwhile, in the 1980s, a woman named Pia seeks solitude on a remote island in the Atlantic, where she works at an inn and reflects on her chaotic childhood. As Pia's story begins, a raging storm engulfs the island and a boat flounders offshore. Pia and her fellow islanders rush to help--and past and present calamities collide.
By turns elegiac and heart-pounding, a love letter in the guise of a song of despair, The Certainties is a moving and transformative blend of historical and speculative fiction--a novel that shows us what it means to bear witness, and to attend to those who seek refuge, past and present.
AISLINN HUNTER is an award-winning novelist and poet and the author of seven highly acclaimed books including the novel The World Before Us, which was a New York Times Editor's Choice, a Guardian and NPR "Book of the Year," and winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Her work has been adapted into music, dance, art, and film forms--including a feature film based on her novel Stay, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Hunter holds degrees in Creative Writing, Art History, Writing and Cultural Politics, and English Literature. In 2018 she served as a Canadian War Artist working with Canadian and NATO forces. She teaches creative writing and lives in Vancouver, BC.
Advance Praise for The Certainties
“The Certainties is a wonderful mystery, a masterful piece of storytelling that will grip you the first time you read it, and a work of careful art that will reward you when you read it again. Aislinn Hunter has a novelist’s eye for narrative and a poet’s ear for detail, and she has brought those gifts together in this novel of slow and uncompromising power. In these pages, the very idea of bearing witness is given its rightful place.” —Jon McGregor, Man Booker Prize–nominated author of Reservoir 13, and winner of the Costa Novel Award
Praise for Aislinn Hunter’s novel The World Before Us
“A complex, subtle, and utterly haunting meditation on memory, history, and mortality. This book is magnificent.” —Emily St. John Mandel
“A novel of considerable beauty . . . haunting and haunted.” —The Globe and Mail
“[Hunter] writes with crispness, precision and a restrained nod to the poetic . . . a sensitive and melancholy meditation on life, death and the potency of the past. . . . A work of great power.” —The Guardian (UK)
“Hypnotically beautiful.” —Chicago Tribune
“Strange and absorbing. . . . [A] richly imagined novel. . . . I relished her book.” —Penelope Lively, The New York Times Book Review