3.5 There is something so distinctive about Japanese novels The spare writing for one, not that there are no descriptions, but only as much as the reader needs to know for the story, no words wasted The unemotional tone to the writing, for another, yet one can feel the emotions brimming under a veneer of formal manners and respectability Ren is a young man who is basically following in his elder sisters footsteps, almost done with his degree when his sister is murdered Putting everything else on hold, he travels to the town where she had been living, where he finds once again he is following his sisters footsteps Living in the same place, taking a temporary job teaching at the school she taught This is a very tightly controlled story, but not one without some ominious and surprising happenings As he tries to put everything together, it will lead back to revelations in his own family.Ren himself will find himself sorely tested when one of his students tries to take her crush on him too far.I enjoyed this, although I like many different kinds of writing, it is nice to read something a little different Learning something too about the differences in cultures and s Thought this was quite well done, and the cover is gorgeous as well.ARC from Edelweiss. I was fortunate enough to receive an Advance Review Copy of this novel which comes out next year.Fans of Murakami will not be disappointed by this lyrical, spell binding evocation of a narrator who finds himself alone and grieving in a sleepy Japanese town.I lost myself in Goenawan s prose, in the effortless detail of everyday life and in the brooding mood that hung over every action. The opposite of action packed, but not necessarily boring It s a bit like watching gold fish Nothing exciting happens but you still can t turn away The first few pages introduce the premise a guy s sister has been murdered and he learns a lot about himself and her as he picks up clues slowly revealing whodunnit Or so we think Don t get excited though This isn t your typical mystery novel It s slow and meditative throughout Not for someone who frequently says when is something going to happen As someone not familiar with Japanese art and literature I enjoyed the unique change of pace There s a lot of Japanese culture in this book and it s interesting to see that juxtaposed with what could be a western murder mystery.All in all though, I have to say that with so many books and so little time you ll probably regret getting involved with this one Feel free to skip. This was an engaging debut novel The writing is minimalist and may not be for everyone However, the thoughtful reflections on love, loss, and regret than make up for this spare type of writing, which I found quite compelling There is a mystery in that Ren Ichida seeks to find out who murdered his sister, Keiko, in the small, remote town of Akakawa, Japan As he seeks answers he finds himself drawn into her former life and actually teaching at the school she had taught at prior to her murder There were many layers to this narrative which was told with a subtle and lyrical quality that compels you to read this as quickly as possible I look forward to books from this author. RAINBIRDS is a compelling and thoughtful story set in Japan in 1994 It s the story of Ren Ishida whose sister, Keiko, has just been murdered in her prime Ren moves to the small town where Keiko lived and worked and takes a job at the school where Keiko taught There he meets a beautiful but troubled student called Rio and discovers painful secrets about the past The prose is clean and evocative with a light magic realism touch and hits the sweet spot between beautiful and couldn t put it down. Written in a spare, minimalist style with hints of magical realism that feels very Japanese, Rainbirds tells the story of a man in his 20s whose older sister is murdered He leaves Tokyo for the small town where she had been living in an effort to understand the sister he realizes he didn t know as well as he thought he did or should have Haunted by regrets and curiosity, he finds himself stepping into her shoes in certain ways taking over the job she had teaching English at a cram school, renting the same room in a house she did At points it seems like a whodunit, at others like a ghost story, but ultimately resists both these genre classifications Rainbirds is set in the early 1990s, before cellphones and the internet changed everyone s lives forever, and it s odd how that gives it the flavor of a remote past, and a mysterious, brooding atmosphere. 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 Why I Love Itby BOTM Editorial Director Siobhan JonesPart of being on the editorial team here at BOTM means that I read the opening chapters of literally dozens of books each month When I come across a story that makes me slow down and not look up until I ve read from cover to cover, I know I ve found something special.This happened to me with Rainbirds The writing grabbed me immediately it s whispery and elegant Even the chapter titles are evocative, like snatches of barely remembered dreams or vivid memories from the narrator s life On page one, we learn that Ren s sister, a polite cram school teacher named Keiko, has recently died There s a police investigation, of course, but almost immediately, the story veers off the whodunit track Seeking answers, Ren takes over Keiko s job, moves into her former residence and finds himself pulled down a path of self discovery He forges an unlikely friendship with an old, mysteriously silent woman He explores newfound intimacies and reconsiders old girlfriends Yes, he s searching for Keiko But he s also searching for himself.Reading this book is like flipping through a stranger s polaroids pictures it contains snapshots of a life lived simply, as well as unanswered questions lurking just out of reach This is not a page turner in the traditional sense, but rather a moving depiction of grief and regret A book to read deeply and not necessarily quickly , I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.Read at This book was a pleasant surprise spare and lyrical prose in what seemed part Japanese novel, part mystery, part poetry While the plot didn t always go in the direction I imagined it would and a few scenes seemed inauthentic to the overall story, there were unforgettable details in the tale of Ren Ishida and his visit to the town where his sister was murdered Goenawan s imagery was particularly evocative when she wrote about her main character s dreams A powerful read and one that was hard to put down. I received an advance uncopyedited edition of Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan from a Goodreads giveaway It might not have been a book I picked up, but the cover drew me, as did the blurbs This book, the writing, the story, were highly praised and I was curious And I am so glad I read it Clarissa Goenawan has written luminously beautiful story that I won t soon forget Her writing is sparse, evocative and flawless Told in the present with seamless flashbacks, it conveyed the quiet grief of the protagonist, Ren Ishida, as he negotiates the world his world after the murder of his sister Before her death, he was a young man drifting in life, with one anchor his sister Keiko Both children were estranged from their parents and Ren, whether he knew it or not, seemed to live for his sister s weekly calls When she was killed, he was the only one who followed her, who asked questions, who appeared to care that she was gone As if our lives are like deep furrows across the earth, Ren falls into Keiko s and picks up her journey and discovers a lot he doesn t know about Keiko and a lot he doesn t know about himself This is not a whodunit by any means, but he does find out who killed her and why, and in that journey learns quite a bit about the people who touched her life and how letting go does not mean forgetting The story has an emotional pull that is compelling, just like the pull that kept Ren walking in his sister s footsteps He knows he is grieving, and the reader grieves with him, but the emotion is subdued, maybe even confused at first But his confusion lifts as he lives in his sister s world You can see his growth And by the end, when Ren scatters his sister s ashes, I knew Clarissa had also led me on a journey of loss and recovery I finished his story with the feeling that Ren would be all right, even if his final actions made my eyes burn with tears This is a great story I highly recommend Rainbirds.
Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian born Singaporean writer Her award winning short fiction has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Singapore, Australia, the UK, and the US Rainbirds is her first novel.
- 323 pages
- Clarissa Goenawan
- 07 August 2018 Clarissa Goenawan