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3.48  ·  Rating details ·  5,249 ratings  ·  873 reviews
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
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by Soho Press
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Ola I think that this book deals with many difficult and heavy issues, but it's not a heavy read. That's what impresses me most about the novel, that thes…moreI think that this book deals with many difficult and heavy issues, but it's not a heavy read. That's what impresses me most about the novel, that these issues are dealt in a light way that still is meaningful.(less)

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Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,249 ratings  ·  873 reviews

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Holly  B
A whodunit based in Japan.

A character study with a Japanese flair. There is a mystery, but this one is really a literary fiction with some moments of suspense and plenty of secrets to unravel. I was ever so curious while reading and wanted to know why someone would murder Ren’s sister, Keiko, in such a violent way. Ren is a graduate student and gives up his studies to move to his sister’s small town in Japan (Akakawa). He starts to piece together some clues that he hopes will give him some answe
Justin Tate
May 02, 2018 rated it liked it
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 h
Diane S ☔
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 els
Leslie Ray
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 more 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 mur ...more
Elisa Lodato
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Rainbirds by Haruki Murakami - sorry, Clarissa Goenawan - is about a man who attempts to investigate the murder of his sister by traveling to her home in Akakawa. It's also the most derivative book I've ever read.

Look, I don't usually mind when the influence of another author is clearly present in a novel. Writers are influenced by other writers, this is how art has always been created. If We Were Villains is like The Secret History; The Book Collector is like Rebecca. It happens. But where the
Kathleen Flynn
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
Caroline Ambrose
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Book of the Month
Why I Love It
by BOTM Editorial Director Siobhan Jones

Part 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
Mar 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
BOTM offered this as a “spellbinding” debut about a brother’s quest for the truth behind his sister’s murder. People have called this book “lyrical” (do they know what that word means?), “luminous,” “evocative,” and a number of other gushing adjectives that seemed right up my alley.

Guys: I. Hated. This. Book.

Harsh? Yes. But you’re dealing with a rage that has simmered for 322 pages and is finally coming into contact with the outside world, goes.

The prose isn’t just spare, it’s sparse
Julia Buckley
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 t ...more
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are a fan of Japanese novels, you will enjoy this wonderful book . The writing is amazing in its simplicity and the characters are compelling.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was…interesting. Not what I expected. What I expected was something a bit more mysterious and thrilling, but what I got was more of a story of one man’s many exploits with women who don’t seem to extensively interest him, whilst wondering at the death of his sister and uncovering several secrets he seems to stumble upon a bit too easily.

BUT before I go too hard on this book, and even though I rated it two and a half stars, I was actually quite far into this book before I realized how m
Carol Potenza
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 th ...more
Kate Olson
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A quietly wonderful literary family mystery set in a small town in Japan, this is a debut that I am SO happy I had the chance to read early. This is NOT a thriller or a fast-paced suspense story. It IS an incredibly thoughtful and spare story with hints of magical realism. Thanks to the publisher for the digital advance copy!
Mary Keliikoa
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced reader copy of Rainbirds. This haunting story is of a brother, Ren Ishida, who comes to a small Japan town where his sister was murdered to settle her affairs. By stepping into the life she left behind, he hopes to learn why his sister left him and his parents behind in Tokyo, and why she was murdered.

I was immediately drawn into the characters and the prose in this story. It's a quiet mystery, with the clues unfolding in the every day life that were bot
Julie Clark
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rainbirds is a story about grief, and the lengths we will go through to resolve it. Goenawan writes with precise beauty, as we follow a brother intent on saying goodbye to a beloved sister who died too soon. Equal parts sinister and heartbreaking, Rainbirds will stay with you long after you read the final page. This is a must read for 2018!
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5/5stars | Favorite Standalone

Okay so. This book was my most anticipated book of the year - it was casually in my "anticipated books" list but the closer it got to its release, the more I NEEDED my hands on it. And this was the first time my most anticipated book of the year didn't disappoint me! This was everything I could have asked for and more tbh - even if I was excited for it, I never expected it to be a 5/5 star fave book like... I'm blown away.

"Rainbirds" is about a young Grad student R
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
Ren Ishida is stunned when he learns of his sister Keiko’s murder. He leaves Tokyo and his studies to travel to Akakawa to wrap up his sister’s affairs. Events lead to his taking over his sister’s job as a teacher and moving into her room in a rich politician’s home, taking over Keiko’s arrangement of reading to his housebound wife. As he delves into his sister’s life in Akakawa, he learns that she hid many things from him.

This book is peopled with many interesting characters and has a haunted
E. Mellyberry
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: got-a-copy
RAINBIRDS is slightly different from my usual cup of tea. I love that I got the chance to read something outside my comfort zone. Plus, it's set in Japan.

The book opens with a murder. Let me tell you, I've been guessing left and right the entire time and still got it wrong. That should say something about the author's brilliant mind. The ending leaves me thirsty for more, definitely thirsty for (more) vengeance. Though the story tends to lean toward the dark, the writing is clean, beautiful, an
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to receive an advance manuscript of this book, which is to be published next year. This story was very interesting - it's about a young man named Ren Ishida, who's sister has been murdered. He travels to Akakawa, where she lived at the time of her murder, to try to learn more about her and what happened. Although in the beginning, I anticipated this to be a murder mystery, that turned out to be a minor element of the plot. At times, I totally forgot that we were supposed t ...more
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookofthemonth, own, mmd, 2020
This book was exactly what I was hoping it would be. (How often can you say that?)

I picked this one not only for the gorgeous cover, but I wanted a slow building murder mystery set in a small town in Japan. The novel opens with Ren Ishida going to Akakawa to pick up his murdered sister's belongings and wrap up her personal affairs. This was a slow burn that made you want to keep reading. I was so immersed in the culture and the conversations between these well drawn characters. I was rooting for
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A journey simmering with melancholy through the alternating haziness and clarity brought on by grief. Three lost daughters and the person who finds them, willingly or not.
Clarissa Goenawan
Gramedia Pustaka Utama
400 pages

Clarissa Goenawan's debut, Rainbirds, is, by any means, not a bad book, but its sparse and incoherent plot--not to mention its flat characters--somehow gets the better of its tranquil and serene atmosphere that Goenawan tries to create.

In an interview conducted by Suanne Schafer, Clarissa Goenawan has summarized the concept of her debut novel, Rainbirds, as--to quote her--“what if someone I cared about suddenly passed away, and then,
Coleen (The Book Ramblings)
If I could only recommend one spring read to you, it is going to be Clarissa Goenawan's debut novel, Rainbirds. I was no less than 3 chapters in when I knew this book was going to special. It is a touching, atmospheric read that you will become invested in, and rooting for Ren to find out what happened to his sister and her secrets.  I made it to the closing page before crying, because it's this thoughtful family mystery with lyrical prose and hints of magical realism that captivates you as a re ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
First of all -- that cover! Sure to be my favorite of the year. The story itself, while not as favored as the cover, was respectable, especially for a debut. I enjoy reading books that take place in Japan. There is an underlying darkness here as in others I have read, a quiet and steady flow to it. Even when the main character finds out who it was that likely murdered his sister, he remains calm and even polite. While he temporarily moves to his sister's town to wrap up her life as it were, he m ...more
Jennie Shaw
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a profound read. Filled with the subtle layers of grief, RAINBIRDS hypnotized me. A touch of mystery regarding Keiko's death gave the plot an ending point, but for me, this story is about Ren. His quiet strength and deep love for his sister created made him easy to connect to, and I fell into the sparse, elegant prose. Overall, I took my time with this one and I'm happy I did as RAINBIRDS isn't a book to be rushed.

Big thanks to Clarissa Goenawan for sending me a review copy!
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ren Ishida, travels from the bustling streets of Tokyo to the tranquil town of Akakawa. His sister has been murdered, stabbed and discarded on the side of the road. As Ren attempts to put her affairs in order, he is slowly drawn into her life. He is offered and accepts her (now) vacant job at the prestigious local cram school teaching English. Working to retrieve her things, he discovers his sister had an unusual living arrangement. She would receive free room and board at the massive mansion of ...more
Nicki White
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I thought I was going to get with Rainbirds was not what I got. While I knew the storyline was going to focus on Ren Ishida, I thought it would stick closely to solving the mystery of his sister Keiko. What I got was more of Ren falling into Keikos life. It appears he was picking up the pieces the she left behind.

I did enjoy getting to know Ren and watching his transformation from Student to teacher at a cram school in the small town of Akakawa. Akakawa itself became a lively place that was
Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows)
3.5 rounding up for Goodreads

While the center of this story surrounds that death of Keiko, the main story is all about Ren and his way of coping with her death, the secrets that come to the surface and learning about himself.

Set in a small town in Japan, what the author brings to the table is more of a contemporary, atmospheric read that submerses you into a culture you may not have understood before. And by culture, I not only speak of Japan with the red bean pancakes (craving these now.. they
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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.

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“Sadness alone can’t harm anyone. It’s what you do when you’re sad that can hurt you and those around you.” 10 likes
“Remember this, Ren. Sadness alone can't harm anyone. It's what you do when you're sad that can hurts you and those around you.” 5 likes
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