Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan


by Clarissa Goenawan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
546218,071 (3.71)2



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 2 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
The Short of It:

Readers of Haruki Murakami will absolutely love Rainbirds. It has all the elements that I enjoy in Japanese literature yet still presents its own unique voice.

The Rest of It:

Ren Ishida’s sister has been murdered. The situation surrounding her death is rather mysterious. Not a lot is known and since Ren and his sister haven’t seen each other recently, he’s not able to contribute any valuable information towards the investigation. Nonetheless, he feels compelled to visit the place of her death and to perhaps retrieve her belongings with the hope of finding some key piece of evidence.

In the process, he finds himself living in her old room and teaching in her previous teaching position. He meets a woman who does not speak, a young student who has a mysterious way of showing up every time he thinks of her, a childhood friend he hasn’t seen in years and he is continually visited in his dreams by a young girl in pigtails. Who is she? What is she trying to tell him? Does she know something about his sister’s death?

As a Murakami fan, I noted mentions of ears, music, food and cats. Yep, they are all here.

I LOVED Rainbirds. It’s one of those quiet, introspective reads that I adore. It’s thoughtful, very much a page-turner and the story is fluid and seamless. I highly recommend it.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Mar 15, 2018 |
Rainbirds is quite different in style and tone than most of the books I have read. I cannot recall reading any contemporary fiction by a Japanese author – that doesn’t mean that I haven’t, it just means I cannot remember. I do read quite a few books in a year. I’ve read historical fiction books by Japanese authors/that take place in Japan but the issues and the times were much different.

Ren is a young man just finishing up his graduate education when he receives a phone call that none of us would ever want to receive: his sister is dead and her death was due to murder. His world, to say the least implodes. His sister cared for him as a child since his parents were always fighting. One day she left the house suddenly and moved to a small town. They kept in regular touch by phone.

He decides after talking to the police in the town to remain. In fact, he not only remains he almost inhabits her life. He takes what was her job, he moves into what was her room. As he seeks answers he only finds more questions and he learns that he really didn’t know his sister at all.

From the opening page there was a feeling of heaviness that hangs over the tale. As Ren tries to find out why someone would so brutally murder a sister he thought he knew well but as he tried to help the police he realizes that his knowledge of her life was superficial at best. He didn’t know why she moved to the small town from Tokyo. He didn’t know if she had a boyfriend. He talked to her once a week on the phone and that was it.

He settles into his new/her old life and he tries to learn what he can. As the story unfolds it flashes back to their life before she left home or to incidences from Ren’s life to help illuminate different bits of the tale. Ren is not always a likable guy – in fact, he really does not treat the women in his life very well at all. This includes his sister and the woman he is currently dating as well as some others from his past. He seems to see them as being there to be of service to him rather than any relationships to be reciprocal. He has a lot to learn in how he manages his relationships.

As Ren searches for answers about his sister’s death he learns some things he doesn’t like but he comes to terms with a side of her he did not know nor understand. It ends up teaching him about himself.

This is the kind of book that pulls you along and then something happens that makes you think. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. There are a number of negative behaviours going on in this tale – some belong to Ren as I mentioned above. others belong to ancillary characters. Some make sense within the story others I still wonder why they were included.

All that being written I found the book quite compelling and thought provoking. It stayed with me for several days afterward. The presence of such flawed characters certainly makes for interesting reading and the ending leaves a certain hope for the future. Not all is resolved and that uncertainty does also leave the reader a bit off balance. It’s a book for this current time I believe. ( )
  BrokenTeepee | Mar 12, 2018 |
When the news of his beloved sister’s death reaches Ren, he hurries to the small town of Akakawa where she had been worked as a teacher for the last couple of years. The police do not have many cues about the young woman’s crucial death, she fell victim to a merciless murderer and was heavily mutilated. Ren starts to ask questions himself, first the landlord where his sister had stayed and with whom she seemed to have had quite a delicate agreement. But also at her work place, there are interesting people who might know more than they would admit at first. In his dreams, Ren is haunted by a young girl with pigtails who obviously wants to tell him something, but he needs time to understand the girl’s message.

Clarissa Goenawan’s novel is set in 1990s in rural Japan and thus the atmosphere is far from the Tokyo rush that you might have in mind when thinking about young people on the Asian island. The plot moves at a moderate pace; modern media simply does not exist so people need to talk to each other to get information or to – very conventionally – send letters. Even though the motive that drives the action is an unsolved murder case, the novel is far from being a real crime novel. It is much more about the brother’s loss, a rather dysfunctional family (or rather: families since none of the families presented can be considered functional in any way) and in a way also about love or different kinds of love. It is a quite melancholy book with some rather dark and even mystical aspects.

I felt sorry for the young protagonist most of the time. He is quite lonely and now with his beloved sister gone, he got nobody to rely on anymore. His childhood memories were quite depressing and it is a wonder that from what he and his sister experienced they didn’t develop any serious mental illness. There is something intriguing about the other characters, too, albeit I assume that this is also stemming from the fact that they are portrayed in a fairly typical Japanese way, eccentric to some extent, which is rather unknown or unusual for Europeans. What I found quite interesting is the fact that the writer herself isn’t Japanese, but for me, her novel is thoroughly Japanese concerning the atmosphere and the characters. ( )
  miss.mesmerized | Mar 2, 2018 |
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 feeling about it that’s very Japanese. There is beauty to be found in this book and when I first started reading it, I thought I would love it. But the more of it I read, the less enchanted I became. There are far too many things that happen in this book that I felt were just unrealistic, which kept pulling me out of the story. And while it’s certainly mostly a book about this young man’s journey into the past to work out his relationship with his sister, I felt far too much room was given to his callous exploits with women. While I understood the connection the author was making, I can’t say I enjoyed those sections at all.

I’ve loved most of the Japanese authors that I’ve read and wish I could have like this one more. It had promise and such a good start but I felt that it fell a bit short. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it and I do hope to read more of the author’s work in the future because I believe she has talent. This is her first novel and she’s received awards for her short stories. But I was ultimately left feeling a bit flat by the end of the story.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review. ( )
  hubblegal | Mar 1, 2018 |
Just when Ren Ishida is finishing grad school, his older sister Keiko is murdered. They haven’t seen each other in a long time, but they talk on the phone every week. She has been living in a small town for years and he knows little of her life there. Ren goes to the town to arrange her funeral and take care of her unfinished business. Their parents do not show up; they have been absent as parents for most of Ren’s life, with Keiko pretty much raising him as she went through school.

The police have no leads; indeed, the police play little part in the story. This is Ren’s exploration of his late sister’s life- he immerses himself in her life, taking over her job as an English instructor at a cram school, and renting her old room in a politician’s house. He learns something about how her life was led by performing the same functions as she did. He also finds little clues in odd places, as well as having dreams about a small child who wants him to figure out who she is.

The story has a blue mood cast over everything, even in more upbeat moments. The writing reminds me of Haruki Murakami, with bits of magical realism thrown into Ren’s voyage of discovery about both his sister and himself. Despite the down mood, I couldn’t put the book down. There are some things that could have been better, but it’s the author’s first novel. Four and a half stars. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Feb 14, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Intertwining elements of suspense and magical realism, award-winning literary debut RAINBIRDS opens with a murder and shines a spotlight on life in fictional small-town Japan.

Ren Ishida is nearly done 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 affairs, failing to understand why she chose to abandon their family and leave Tokyo for this small town in the first place.

But Ren soon finds himself picking up right where Keiko left off, accepting both her teaching position at a cram school and the bizarre arrangement of free lodging at the wealthy Mr. Katou’s mansion, in exchange for reading aloud each morning to Katou’s depressed, mute wife. As Ren gets to know the figures in the town, from the mysterious Katou to fellow teachers and a rebellious, alluring student named Rio, he replays memories of his childhood with Keiko and finds his dreams haunted by a young girl with pigtails who is desperately trying to tell him something. Struggling to fill the void that Keiko has left behind, Ren realizes that perhaps people don’t change, and if they don’t, he can decipher the identity of his sister’s killer.
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

No library descriptions found.

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Clarissa Goenawan's book Rainbirds is currently available from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Sign up to get a pre-publication copy in exchange for a review.

LibraryThing Author

Clarissa Goenawan is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

profile page | author page

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.71)
1 1
3 1
4 3
5 2


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 124,036,934 books! | Top bar: Always visible