Set in an imagined town outside Tokyo, Clarissa Goenawan's dark, spellbinding literary debut follows a young man's path to self-discovery in the wake of his sister's murder.
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 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 him.
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A transnational literary tour-de-force. Readers will be carried along by its creepy charm - The Japan Times
A murder mystery and a family drama in one, this book is as beautiful as it is understated. The author presents us with a fascinatingly structured look into Japanese society and a depiction of mourning and grief that is universally recognizable. - San Francisco Chronicle
Mysterious and dark - Daily Beast
Elegantly [combines] a suspenseful mystery with an eloquent meditation on love and loss. - HuffPost
Throughout this novel, numerous moments pleasantly evoke the surrealism of Murakami, the nightmarish descriptions of Abe, the alienated youth of Yoshimoto, and the ill-fated lovers of Kawabata. But Rainbirds, suffice it to say, is a different beast, a contemporary work of noir that draws readers into an eerie landscape that is hard to forget - Los Angeles Review of Books