Ren Ishida, an aimless and directionless young man living in Japan
during the 1990s, has recently learned that his beloved older sister,
Keiko, has been murdered. Feeling loyalty to his beloved sister, as well
as knowing that she has no one else close to her, he makes a decision
to move to the fictional town of Akakawa to take care of his sister's
affairs. But once there, he finds himself sucked into the mystery of the
town and its residents: he gets a job, lives in the same place as his
sister, and tries to unravel the why and the how of Keiko's murder. Was
it a one-time thing or something even more sinister?
Although RAINBIRDS by Clarissa
Goenawan is billed as a mystery, this really more of an exploratory
novel of Ren Ishida's daily life. In other words, this is not a thrilling
novel with twists and turns, but instead, RAINBIRDS is more
psychological. Goenawan deftly explores the relationship between
Keiko and Ren, causing the reader to actually become heartbroken by
the senselessness of crime committed against Keiko.
I was impressed by the relatable yet distinctive characters in RAINBIRDS, and enjoyed delving into
the fictional town of Akakawa and the various people who inhabit it.
Surprisingly, I also loved the slow meditative pacing of RAINBIRDS, which really showcased
how Ren Ishida tries to deal with his sister's murder.
RAINBIRDS by Clarissa Goenawan
really reminded me of the Japanese classic novel, The Tale of Genji by
Murasaki Shikibu, which also has a psychological aspect to it, and is
about exploring life and how death can change someone. I really hope
in the future to see more of Ren Ishida and to learn more about his life
since Keiko's death, and if not, I will enjoy reading more books by
Clarissa Goenawan. For readers seeking a novel that takes place in
Japan or something slower paced and more philosophical in nature, RAINBIRDS by Clarissa Goenawan
should be a perfect fit to fulfill those requirements.
Ren Ishida has nearly completed his graduate degree at
Keio University when he receives news of his sister’s
violent death. Keiko was stabbed one rainy night on her
way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to
conclude his sister’s affairs, failing to understand why
she chose to turn her back on the family and Tokyo for
this desolate place years ago.
But then Ren is offered Keiko’s newly vacant teaching
position at a prestigious local cram school and her
bizarre former arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy
politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s
ailing wife. He accepts both, abandoning Tokyo and his
crumbling relationship there in order to better
understand his sister’s life and what took place the
night of her death.
As Ren comes to know the eccentric local figures, from
the enigmatic politician who’s boarding him to his fellow
teachers and a rebellious, captivating young female
student, he delves into his shared childhood with Keiko
and what followed. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl
who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren
realizes that Keiko Ishida kept many secrets, even from