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The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,437 ratings  ·  360 reviews
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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 10th 2020 by Soho Press
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Miwako Sumida is a sophomore in college when she commits suicide. Months before that she is in hiding in a remote village. Why was she in hiding?

Her friends are left behind to put together the pieces, and they travel to village where she hid.

Goenawan has penned a beautifully intricate character study. Miwako’s life is laid bare: her innermost secrets and her most relatable thoughts and feelings. The Tokyo setting was so much fun for me because I’m not sure I’ve read a book set there in modern ti
Nenia Campbell

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When I was in high school, I started getting into literary fiction because I thought that was what you had to read to be "smart." From there, I got really interested in Asian literature, and one of my favorite authors to read back then was Banana Yoshimoto. Her trademark style of dreamy, wistful tragedies was just so compelling to teen me, and I haven't really found an author that came close... UNTIL NOW.

For some reason, I had gotten it
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Clarissa Goenawan deserves to have a much bigger following than she currently has. In Both her first novel, Rainbirds, and her second, The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, she shows a talent for painting complex portraits of characters who carry a burden of uncertainty—about identity, about their own life stories, about the stories of those they love. This results in a sort of tentativeness in her writing, but it's a tentativeness that engages and opens possibilities, not one that creates distanc ...more
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
A quiet and soothing novel, despite the tragedy encountered by its title character. At the offset of The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, we learn that Miwako has died by suicide while staying at a remote mountainside village away from her current university. The novel follows three characters across three sections: Ryusei, a fellow university student who held unrequited romantic feelings for her, Chie, a close friend of Miwako’s who knew more about her past, and Fumi, Ryusei’s older sister, who ...more
3 ½ stars

“When I closed my eyes, I could still hear her sharp, stubborn voice and surprisingly unbridled laugh.”

With grace and clarity Clarissa Goenawan's The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida tells a tragic yet tender tale, one that begins with an ending: Miwako Sumida, a university student, has committed suicide.

“I hadn't thought I would use my mourning suit again anytime soon. Apart from my sister, I had no living family or relatives. My friends were around my age, and we were all approaching
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing

This was absolutely wonderful and everything I expected from Clarissa’s second book. “Rainbirds” made my fave books of the year it was released, and Miwako Sumida will probably make this year’s!

Goenawan is basically Murakami if Murakami knew how to write women and lgbt characters. Her books really are like getting a new Murakami book - if “Rainbirds” was her WUBC, this book is her Norwegian Wood.
Sheree | Keeping Up With The Penguins
The Perfect World Of Miwako Sumida falls in the murky middle of the Venn diagram between literary fiction and conventional mystery. The story is told in three parts, with fluid transitions between past and present to tell Miwako’s story. Normally I resist jumpy timelines, but this one unfolded so naturally I barely noticed.

In the final section, it also evolves into a more magical and mystical understanding of life and death – again, not usually my “thing”, but I was so wrapped up in this story
Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows)
Wow. Where do I even begin?! I read Clarissa's prior book, Rainbirds, two years ago and knew she was a talented writer then, but this book... THIS BOOK. I just finished it and I'm floored. What a truly beautiful, if somber, story. I had literal chills at one part towards the end. ALL THE FEELS.

This book centers around Miwako Sumida, who we learn from the prologue, has hanged herself. What comes are three parts, through the eyes of those who knew her best as we reflect to their experiences with h
Schizanthus Nerd
She’d said she wanted to tell me something. Maybe I could find out what, if I traced her path somehow.
Miwako Sumida was only 20 when she died. Her story is told by three people who each knew part of it. Ryusei was the man who loved Miwako. Chie, who began her life as a “transparent girl”, was Miwako’s best friend. Fumi, Ryusei’s sister, was Miwako’s employer. I want to tell you all about them but can’t, because spoilers.

I really liked Miwako. She was blunt. She could be stand-offish. If you w
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 th ...more
The Nerd Daily
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Christina Ladd

Clarissa Goenawan’s sophomore novel, The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, is a quietly powerful meditation on the destructive power of secrets, as well as the power of truth to heal even beyond death. These themes are also strongly present in her first novel, Rainbirds, and because the two novels are tangentially linked by certain characters’ relationships, I decided to read both. You can read The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida with
Deirdre Rosenberg
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
This novel is perfect in its simplicity and smooth writing style. I read it in under 24hrs and savored every moment. It was beautifully composed and a real pleasure to read. If you liked Goenawan’s first book, you will for sure love this one. The story is very powerful and touching. The characters are unique, but quite relatable. The author is very talented when it comes to setting a mood and vibe. When you read her words, you are transported.
Rhonda Lomazow
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Clarissa Goenawan is an author to follow.This is her second novel her first was Rainbird that was so unique so well written and this her second is another gem.
From the first pages I was drawn in by the scene the characters Miwako her suicide her secrets the friends left guessing.
Highly recommend this book this author literary fiction at its best.
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

Absolutely stunning look into the complexities of identity, grief and friendship. Goenawan writes so naturally that everything flows so seamlessly and I couldn't put it down.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida is written in three parts from three different perspectives. I appreciated the subtleties of Geonawan's writing style as each character felt real and grounded as their part in the story unfolds and the overall image of Miwako is defined. During each act or part the timeline does ju
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most qualitative rich prose thriller that you can find this Year, Clarissa has been one of our most favourite Writer, her debut novel RAINBIRDS was a masterpiece that we loved so much, reading her second book just increased the love for her epic works that we highly recommend you to read!
The story follows the tragedy of Miwako a student girl, Goenawan merges mystery, grief tragedy, deep secrets and heartbreaks in such a perfect performance to bring us a very enjoyable and hunting thr
Coleen (The Book Ramblings)
Clarissa Goenawan’s second novel, The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida expands upon the world of Rainbirds, her debut novel. There is simplicity yet depth and elegance when it comes to her prose that is refreshing and something that I appreciate about her writing style. So it was no surprise when I read the entirety of this novel within 5 hours while sick in bed. I would like to thank Clarissa Goenawan and Soho Press for sending me an advanced copy.

It follows three friends of Miwako, a Tokyo unive
Oct 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars.
I enjoyed the first part best, the second part was pretty good too, but the third part felt flat to me. The writing is very readable and flows well, and it’s very atmospheric—that’s the thing I liked best about this book. Goenawan creates a very unique atmosphere that’s at once soothing and foreboding, like there’s always a sense of darkness and mystery lurking. But although it never gets very dramatic and suspenseful, the book’s too much focused on creating this sense of mystery, on m
E. Mellyberry
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: got-a-copy
What a wonderful story. Clarissa did it again. Both her books are amazing, but I have to say, I love her second book more.
The writing is quiet, but beautiful and deep. I adore every character, but I am drawn towards Miwako and Fumi-nee, deeper and deeper into their secrets and unexpected past. One layer peeled, and there was another, and another... I cannot put it down.
Never thought I would love this novel that much but it was really engrossing and beautiful. The idea, setting, characters, theme and exposition were beautifully crafted and written, greatly narrated that I honestly love everything about it.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida tells an exquisite tale of Miwako Sumida in the eyes of her three closest friends. A love story and the unraveling vignettes of friendship and family-- each memories danced well to the plot rhythm, of past and current, the r
Pauline [paulineisreading]
Miwako Sumida is dead. And now those closest to her including Ryusei, a boy who’s in love with her, and Chie, her best friend, are trying to piece it all together. Told from 3 different perspectives, this book is ultimately a murder mystery that’s set in contemporary Japan. Intriguing, right?!

I didn’t expect this book to be such a suspenseful page-turner so i was pleasantly surprised when i realised how easily readable it is from the first page. It quietly explores grief, trauma, and other weigh
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘A year after the first time I met Miwako, I attended her wake.’

When Miwako takes her own life, her friends want to understand why. She had only been part of their lives for a brief period, and none of them knew her very well. Miwako was reserved to the point of social awkwardness and did not reveal much about her past.

Who was Miwako Sumida? Ryusei, the boy who loved her (although Miwako rebuffed him whenever he mentioned romance) and her friend Chie travel to the remote village where Miwako sp
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
There was so much that irritated me about this book that I don’t know where to start. Looking at the reviews, I now also feel irritated that so few people found it irritating. Yes I am a bit irritable at the moment how did you guess. Before I start on how irritating it was, just a quick precap. Miwako Sumida has hanged herself (not a spoiler). The why-dunnit, such as it is, is narrated in three sections: through her would-be boyfriend Ryusei, her best friend Chie, and her employer Fumi-nee respe ...more
Nabilah Firdaus
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Before I knew it had happened, I’d fallen in love with Miwako Sumida ———— Eight months later, Miwako Sumida hanged herself.”

I was charmed by this nostalgic novel that explores themes of love and loss, the dilemma of identity and woman’s pretence in concealing harrowing secrets from destroying the people around her. In simple but elegant prose, the author brings us to understand the reasons behind Miwako Sumida’s suicide through the voices of three people whom were close to her.

The writing is qu
Tina (KIMONO Books)
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. It starts as some kind of coming-of-age story, where two people meet and get to know (and love) each other. But this is all happening in flashbacks. In the present, Miwako Sumida has hanged herself. Why, her friends don't know. So they try to find out.

THE PERFECT WORLD OF MIWAKO SUMIDA alternates between the present and flashbacks from Miwako's and the other character's past. We follow the stories from the view of Yanagi, who is deeply in love with her and crushed when
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
First things first: the author's writing is simply beautiful. It's quiet, descriptive and heartfelt.

From the start, you know that this is the story of a girl who commits suicide. You don't know why, but as you read about her, from the points of view of the people who loved her, you learn about her...and about so much more.

Each character in the book has secrets - some heartbreaking, some mysterious, all fascinating. And we learn that keeping all those secrets deep inside can eventually eat away a
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found this very melancholy and sad but also strangely beautiful. We know from the beginning that Miwako has killed herself and through sections from the point of view of her best friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's sister we get pieces of Miwako's story and learn what led her to such a desperate end. The secrets revealed surprised me more than once, several of them were quite shocking. While I would never label this as a feelgood or light story I wouldn't call it depressing either. What ...more
Krystelle Zuanic
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was an utter dream to read, with winding and beautiful prose, at times almost dreamlike. There is so much to be found in the nooks and crannies of this book, and all of the characters jump off the page in such a glorious way that there is just an incredible connection to them all by the end of the book. This applies even in the case of Miwako, who we only come to know through memory and dreams.

The writing has quite the flow, and there is a real vitality to it. The reader is transporte
Millie Stephen
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t anticipate to start this book tonight, I picked it up to read the blurb. Here I am 4 hours later utterly amazed, this book is fantastic. Couldn’t put it down. Everything is so vividly described. I could hear the roaring and crackling of a fire when I was reading about a fire. It felt like I was in Tokyo, then the mountains. Amazing.
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
Excellent read... This is my second book for PopSugar 2020- Pink cover...
It is a worthy read even if it wasn’t up for a category...
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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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