Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

(Last Updated On: June 25, 2019)

About the Book

Publisher: Soho Press  |  Release Date: March 6, 2018  |  Pages: 323
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Contemporary  |  Format: Hardcover  |  Source: Purchased

Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan.

Ren Ishida is nearly finished with graduate school when he receives news of his sister Keiko’s sudden death. She was viciously stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, still failing to understand why she chose to abandon the family and Tokyo for this desolate town years ago.

But Ren soon finds himself picking up where Keiko left off, accepting both her teaching position at a local cram school and the bizarre arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s catatonic wife.

As he comes to know the figures in Akakawa, from the enigmatic politician to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, alluring student named Rio, Ren delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed, trying to piece together what happened the night of her death. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren struggles to find solace in the void his sister has left behind.

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My Review

WP_20180407_09_52_13_Pro4.5 stars. Wow. I am currently at a loss for words. This debut novel by Clarissa Goenawan is a book that will stay with you when you finish. Rainbirds begins with the funeral of Keiko Ishida, a young teacher that was brutally murdered late one night. The police have no leads, and her brother Ren discovers just how much he didn’t know about her. While settling her affairs he is offered a temporary job at his sister’s cram school and housing with a local politician that Keiko stayed with. He decides to stay for six months to settle everything.

‘It’s good to be young. Anything feels possible. As you grow older, you forget how to dream. Before you realize it, one day you wake up and look in the mirror, wondering who the middle-aged man in front of you is.’

This is not the book that I expected, but it was perfect. It isn’t a fast-paced whodunit murder mystery – sure, it starts with a murder, but it is really about life. The hole left behind when a loved one passes. Discovering new things about them after they are gone. And for Ren Ishida, following in his sister’s footsteps a bit and uncovering clues to both her murder and her past, learning a bit about himself along the way.

The book is masterfully written and is a fast, engaging read. The characters are well developed and I was just as interested in the monotonous aspects of Ishida’s everyday life as I was with the murder mystery developments. The latter is slow coming, but for me, I didn’t find that disappointing because I didn’t view them as the main element of the story. I enjoyed the pace that everything developed, kind of like the layers of an onion peeling back as Ren interacts more with the people that were in his sister’s life and have become a part of his own. I also appreciate that there was a resolution and everything was wrapped up nicely, and none of the plot developments seemed like a stretch. I would highly recommend this book to those that enjoy contemporary adult fiction.

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


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