★ ★ ★ ★
If I could only recommend one spring read to you, it is going to be Clarissa Goenawan’s debut novel, Rainbirds. I was no less than 3 chapters in when I knew this book was going to special. It is a touching, atmospheric read that you will become invested in, and rooting for Ren to find out what happened to his sister and her secrets. I made it to the closing page before crying, because it’s this thoughtful family mystery with lyrical prose and hints of magical realism that captivates you as a reader.
I’ve been in a bit of a book rut because life has gotten hectic once again and studies take up a majority of my time so I have not had time to read for leisure despite how much I wanted to. So when it came to reading Rainbirds, I would take any amount of time, no matter how little, to read a couple pages–but I found myself losing track of time because I was invested in the story of Ren and Keiko. There is an eerie otherworldly feeling that surrounds the town of Akakawa with its peculiar characters, and I could never figure out some of the characters intentions, which had me second guessing what I thought and Ren’s actions while reading this. While it touches on grief and coping, I thought it was handled really well and wasn’t a difficult read. This was exceptionally written and concluded beautifully. I cannot wait to read what Clarissa Goenawan publishes next.
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.
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by Soho Press