Publisher: Emblem Editions
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.

From the Hardcover edition.


In what was to have been the future, Ansel rolled towards her, half awake, half forgetful. He curved his body around hers and Gail’s warmth drew him back into sleep. Morning passed into afternoon, the rest of the world waited outside, but he and Gail were just rising from bed, they were fumbling into their clothes,...
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1. When Certainty begins, its heroine is dead. Why do you think Madeleine Thien made that decision? Other than the flashbacks, how does she keep Gail “alive” for the reader? How would it change the book’s import if Gail were truly alive?

2. Matthew tells Ani that he longs for a life...

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Now in paperback
National bestseller

“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.”