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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?
Ryusei, a fellow student at Waseda who harbored unrequited feelings for Miwako, begs her best friend Chie to bring him to the remote village where she spent her final days. While they are away, his older sister, Fumi, who took Miwako on as an apprentice in her art studio, receives an unexpected guest at her 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.
About the Author
Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Singapore, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the UK, and the US. Rainbirds, her first novel, has been published in eleven different languages.
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
“A tremendous examination of sadness . . . a book with heart about the mysteries of the heart.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Goenawan's style is effortless and emotionally charged . . . The Perfect World Of Miwako Sumida is a misconception: nothing is perfect in this book.”
—The Irish Times
“An immersive, haunting tale . . . Goenawan's prose is transportive in its directness and evocative in its simplicity. In Miwako, she has succeeded in an intricate character study of a perturbed soul.”
—The Strait Times
“Miwako is a powerful, memorable character . . . The way these characters’ lives intersect makes for a complex and satisfying tale, one that’s sad at the same time as it’s lively and warm.”
“A haunting tale of secrets, inner turmoil, and the search for answers.”
“A quietly powerful meditation on the destructive power of secrets, as well as the power of truth to heal even beyond death.”
—The Nerd Daily
“Goenawan, like any skilled novelist, manages to elegantly reveal both the pain and beauty of unraveling a life after loss. This is only her second novel to date, and she’s already been compared to the wizard of world-building, Haruki Murakami.”
“A novel that lingers in the mind thanks to its poetic delivery, layering of ideas and an engrossing tale, all led by vivid characters.”
—Bad Form Magazine
“If her debut novel brings Murakami to mind, her second, with its winsome tone, harkens to early Banana Yoshimoto. However, with her blend of mystery, magic and social issues—in this case, sexual abuse, transgender awareness and suicide—Goenawan is developing her own distinct brand.”
—The Japan Times
“[Goenawan] raises an age-old question on the fine line where literature ends and life begins . . [she] has her own distinctive voice, as she sensitively explores traumatic sexual experiences through a woman’s perspective.”
—The Jakarta Post
“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."
Praise for Rainbirds
“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
”A transnational literary tour-de-force. Readers will be carried along by its creepy charm.”
—The Japan Times
“Clarissa Goenawan spins a dark, encapsulating story that will certainly reel you in completely.”
“Mysterious and dark.”
“With its dream sequences, chance encounters and leisurely attention to music and food, this debut novel evokes the simple joys of early Haruki Murakami . . . A satisfying heartfelt tale about letting go.”