cover image The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

Clarissa Goenawan. Soho, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-64129-119-4

Goenawan’s tender and tragic follow-up to Rainbirds follows a group of college friends grasping for answers after the death of their friend. Ryusei Yanagi first meets fellow student Miwako Sumida at a restaurant near the Waseda university campus in Tokyo. They bond while browsing in an English-language bookstore, reading together in their university’s library, and assisting Ryusei’s sister, Fumi, at her painting studio. Ryusei is drawn by Miwako’s candor (“You seem pretty frivolous to me,” she tells him after admitting surprise at his deeper interests), but the two stay in romantic limbo as Miwako keeps Ryusei at a distance. Goenawan conveys Miwako’s story in three parts, alternating from the gentle and heartbroken Ryusei, artist and late-night hostess Fumi, and wistful and anxious best friend Chie, who accompanies Miwako to get an abortion without knowing who had gotten her pregnant, having sensed that her friend had been raped. After Miwako goes to Kitsuyama, a remote Japanese village, and commits suicide, Ryusei and Chie follow a trail of clues from letters and diary entries to understand why she killed herself. 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. Agent: Maria Cardona. (Mar.)