The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

by Clarissa Goenawan

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641291194
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/10/2020
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 625,433
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

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.

Read an Excerpt

1
Like a Long-Lost Friend
March 15th, 1989
 
I met Miwako Sumida at a goukon organized by Toshi, a friend of mine.
      I had never been interested in group dates. They were desperate measures for desperate people, but Toshi was desperate. He’d been trying to gain the attention of a pretty, short-haired girl in his swimming club. I didn’t want to ruin his excitement, but the girl had probably agreed to come because Jin—our other friend, popular and a total charmer—would be there. Toshi and I had been hanging out since our first year at Waseda, so I felt obliged to participate.
      The goukon was scheduled for noon at a family restaurant near our campus. At a quarter past twelve, the girls were still nowhere to be seen. We ordered milkshakes and continued to wait, listening to Oricon singles from the restaurant’s only speaker.
      “Are you sure those girls haven’t ditched us?” Jin teased Toshi.
      “Don’t say that; they’re just late.” Toshi tapped his fingers on the table. “They’ll be here any second.”
      “No matter what, you’re picking up the tab like you promised. We’ll give them another five minutes before we order food.”
      “Shut up.”
      Yawning, I gazed out the window. Wet leaves sparkled in the bright sunlight. It had poured yesterday afternoon and all night, but the rain had stopped right when I’d left the house that morning. The scent of fresh soil lingered, mixed with the fragrance of plum blossoms.
      Suddenly, Toshi stood and waved. I turned toward the door and saw three girls walking toward our table.
      The one in front was the beautiful freshman Toshi was after, and the two girls behind her were a study in opposites. One had long, silky black hair and a serious expression behind a pair of old-fashioned thick-rimmed glasses. The other was glamorous, with bleached, permed hair and a body-hugging dress that emphasized her curves. The blonde was one-hundred percent Jin’s type, so I knew I’d be expected to make conversation with the glasses girl.
      Before anyone else could say a word, Jin spoke.
      “I can’t believe you’re here, Sumida,” he said.
      The girl with the glasses gave him a thin smile. “Me neither. I’d never have guessed I’d see you again. I’m surprised you remember my name.”
      Jin chuckled. “Come on, my memory isn’t that bad.”
      “You know each other?” Toshi asked.
      “We were high school classmates,” Jin said quickly. “Apologies. I’ve done things in the wrong order, haven’t I? Please, ladies, take a seat, and then we can do the introductions.”
      The three of them made themselves comfortable on the long sofa. The pretty girl was named Sachiko Hayami, the stylish one was Chie Ohno, and the one with the glasses was Miwako Sumida.
      “Sachiko, Chie, and Miwako,” Toshi repeated. “Do you mind if we use first names?”
      “Of course not,” Chie said in a cheerful tone. She was so friendly, probably one of those girls everyone had an easy time getting along with.
      Toshi ordered some light snacks, and we made the usual collegiate conversation. What are you studying? Oh, interesting. Are you in any clubs? I’ve been thinking of checking that one out. What about you, Ryusei? Any fun hobbies? Oh, me too. I listen to the radio all the time. Music, mostly. I have pretty eclectic taste. Wow, people have said that about me too! Have you seen any good movies recently? What did you think of it? Wait, don’t tell me the ending. I haven’t watched it yet.
      As the exchange went on, I became fascinated by how different these girls were. Sachiko and Chie were chatty, while Miwako gave cursory answers to everything anyone asked her, like she didn’t want to be there. Then again, I too was only there to pad the numbers.
      After a while, it became obvious that Miwako really didn’t want to be there. She wouldn’t stop looking at her watch, which seemed too big for her thin wrist. As expected, Sachiko was more interested in Jin than Toshi. But what piqued my interest was the tension between Jin and Miwako. He seemed overly conscious of her, glancing at her every now and then before averting his eyes. She, on the other hand, openly stared at him whenever he looked at her.
      When the girls excused themselves to go to the washroom, Toshi wasted no time in grilling Jin.
      “You’ve gone on a date with Miwako, haven’t you?” he asked.
      Not bad for Toshi. He was surprisingly sharp that day.
      Jin slurped his chocolate milkshake. “No way. She’s not my type.”
      “I don’t believe you. She kept looking at you.”
      “Glaring, you mean?” said Jin, laughing. “If you must know, we do have an unpleasant history. I’m not going to be the one to spill it, so don’t bother asking.” He lowered his voice. “But the other girl, Chie. She’s hot.”
      “Yeah, and nice, too.” Toshi seemed to have forgotten his question. “So you’re going for her? Ryusei, I think you’d do well with the—”
      “The mature type,” Jin said. “You prefer older girls, don’t you?”
      “I’ve never said that,” I said, stirring my drink with a straw.
      “Look,” Jin said. “Just go along with it unless you’ve got a violent objection.”
      I didn’t respond. Even without them suggesting it, I would have chosen Miwako over the other two. She seemed sensible. A girl like her wouldn’t expect too much from a setting like this. Regardless of whom I ended up talking to, we would probably go to karaoke together as a group, exchange numbers out of courtesy, and part ways, never to see each other again. She would forget me, and I would forget her. That was all.
      But when it came to Miwako Sumida, nothing was as I expected.
 
 
As predicted, after we finished lunch, Toshi announced we would be heading to a nearby karaoke joint.
      Miwako sighed. “How long will this take?”
      Chie twisted her hair around her finger. “Two to three hours at most?”
      “I’m going take my leave. I don’t like singing in front of people, and I need to go to the bookstore.”
      “But we’ll be short one girl!” Sachiko protested. I stood. “Don’t worry, I’ll go with her. I have to pick up a book too.”
      Jin snickered. “How convenient.”
      “Any violent objections?” I asked, parroting him.
      He flashed me a smug smile. “No objections. All good. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
      “Miwako, are you okay with that?” Chie asked.
      “Why not?” she said, grabbing her bag.

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