From the critically acclaimed author of Rainbirds comes a novel of tragedy and dark histories set in Japan.
University sophomore Miwako Sumida has hanged herself, leaving those closest to her reeling. In the months before her suicide, she was hiding away in a remote mountainside village, but what, or whom, was she running from?
To Ryusei, a fellow student at Waseda; Chie, Miwako’s best friend; and Fumi, Ryusei’s older sister, Miwako was more than the blunt, no-nonsense person she projected to the world. Heartbroken, Ryusei begs Chie to take him to the village where Miwako spent her final days. While he is away, Fumi receives an unexpected guest at their shared apartment in Tokyo, distracting her from her fear that Miwako’s death may ruin what is left of her brother’s life.
Expanding on the beautifully crafted world of Rainbirds, Clarissa Goenawan gradually pierces through a young woman’s careful façade, unmasking her most painful secrets.
A Literary Hub Most Anticipated Book of 2020
Praise for The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida
“An exquisite tale about the way secrets shape and transform young lives. Behind Goenawan’s crisp, spare prose lies a world of emotional complexity.”
—Mira T. Lee, award–winning author of Everything Here Is Beautiful
“A novel in three voices about the inner turmoil—and beauty—that people keep walled behind flawless surfaces.”
—Tiffany Tsao, author of The Oddfits and The Majesties
“From the first page of Clarissa Goenawan’s The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, we know that the titular Miwako has taken her own life, but we don’t know why. This same question plagues Miwako’s close friends as they grieve her death and search for answers. In this elegant and haunting novel, Goenawan deftly explores the messiness of grief, the pain of lost chances, and the way a life can collapse under the weight of secrets. Miwako and her friends are under my skin, and I’ll be thinking about them for some time.”
—Kathleen Barber, author of Truth Be Told and Follow Me
“Vivid and intriguing—an elegantly cryptic, poetically plotted Murakami-esque whydunit.”
—Sharlene Teo, award–winning author of Ponti
“Written in clear, simple prose, Goenawan’s novel presents the intriguing mystery of Miwako Sumida through the eyes of three characters who try to piece together her puzzle while struggling with their own questions of meaning and identity. This story about youth, friendship, grief, and trauma invites us through secret doors, ready to discover more.”
—Intan Paramaditha, PEN Award–winning author of Apple and Knife and The Wandering
“As three stories interlink, rich plot, description, and dialogue make this fiction seem like reality. While readers may be aware they’re not a part of the novel, through Goenawan’s enthralling writing, they will nonetheless become immersed in her fictional world.”
“A compelling protagonist . . . Like Japanese brush painting, the author’s simple, clear prose captures Miwako’s vulnerability and complexity. Also vividly drawn are Fumi and Chie, each having built their own unusual protective personas that are gradually revealed. An eerie and elegant puzzle.”
“Like Goenawan’s previous Rainbirds, this is more literary fiction than conventional mystery, featuring exceptionally well-drawn characters facing adversity in a narrative written with an elegance and delicacy.”
“Tender and tragic . . . Goenawan’s luminous prose captures the deep emotions of her characters as they grapple with questions about family history, gender, and sexuality. The tug of Miwako’s strange, troubled spirit will wrench readers from the beginning.”
“Goenawan does an expert job of getting to the core of this university student with a mysterious past, and on how people grapple with the death by suicide of a loved one.”