In the tradition of A. S. Byatt's Possession, a hauntingly poignant novel about madness, loss, and the ties that bind our past to our present
Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare.  She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment, lost her. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated.

Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project--an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past--Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared over one hundred years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on.

In riveting, beautiful prose, The World Before Us explores the powerful notion that history is a closely connected part of us--kept alive by the resonance of our daily choices--reminding us of the possibility that we are less alone than we might think.
An NPR Best Book of the Year Selection

"A complex, subtle, and utterly haunting meditation on memory, history, and mortality. This book is magnificent."—Emily St. John Mandel, author of National Book Award Finalist and New York Times Bestseller Station Eleven

"Daring and mesmerizing. A haunting, irresistible story and an urgent mystery about what it means to pass through this life.  Hunter has a poet's eye and ear, and she goes after the elusive - the waywardness of memory, the grief of random loss, the yearning of existence - in an unfolding drama that is absorbing, luminous and powerfully human."—Alison MacLeod, Man Booker Prize-nominated author of Unexploded

“Haunting…a compelling exploration of how memory shapes and is shaped by individuals and society.” —Kirkus

“Haunting…an emotionally and intellectually satisfying journey in the manner of A.S. Byatt’s Possession…[The World Before Us] movingly dramatizes how unknowable the past can be.” – Publishers Weekly 

"The World Before Us is a powerful balancing act...It is a novel of considerable beauty, threaded with violence and pain, a melancholic book with moments of grace and joy. It is a thought-provoking novel, haunting and haunted, rooted in the power of history and of the individuals within it, and outside it. Reminiscent of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, it is the sort of novel which forces you to look at the world – the people around you, the objects they hold dear – in a different light."—Globe and Mail

“An ambitious new novel about the vitality of objects and history’s knack for bleeding into the present. Intricate in both expression and construction, and dense in thematic implication, The World Before Us cleverly innovates while tipping a nod to classic Gothic tropes: dynastic rivalries, crumbling country houses, madhouses and vanished girls. Hunter is less tempted by spooky thrills than the chance to explore ways in which human affection resonates across time.”—National Post

"A haunting tale of loss and reconciliation...The novel's three timelines are deftly woven together, illustrating the ways life takes on meaning even through objects and places. Hunter refers to history as 'a shifting trickster' and uses that premise to hook readers, as they...embark on a quest for meaning and truth in the face of tragedy."— Chatelaine

"Intricately composed and gripping…With The World Before Us, [Hunter] has created her most ambitious and original work.”—Quill and Quire

“Once in a rare while a novel comes along to remind us of what great fiction can do: creating a world so sublimely felt that, for the hours we spend reading, we are lifted out of our own lives, and when we return we find ourselves immeasurably altered and enriched. The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter is such a novel. It is a brilliant work of humanity and imagination, artful and breathtakingly beautiful, and it will continue to haunt long after you have finished reading.” —Helen Humphreys, author of The Lost Garden and Coventry

"A richly layered narrative harmonizing the past and present, dissolving the boundaries of time frames and showing the possible conneciton between people and places and objects...The World Before Us is a well-constructed and thoughtful novel on serious subjects. The historical detail never overwhelms; instead it brings alive the past and shows the seamlessness of past and present, espeically the human need for contact, which transcends time and place."—The Vancouver Sun

Praise for Aislinn Hunter's Stay

"Stay's rigorous examination of the relationship between colonialism, globalization, and identity places it in the company of Michael Ondaatje . . . Controlled, smart, and humane."—Quill and Quire

"For all the complexity in Hunter's rich book . . . there is also a minute attention to detail and an elegance in the natural dialogue. Hunter hangs ideas on you, ideas you want to stop and think about, in such a subtle, tender way."—Michelle Berry, Globe and Mail