Book review: Rainbirds

IT BEGINS with a murder mystery and slowly turns into a journey of self-discovery.

Ren Ishida is told that his sister, Keiko, has been found murdered in the street of a small town called Akakawa, with her body pierced by multiple stab wounds, and a knife (given to her as a gift by Ren) left by her side.

Keiko left the family home in Tokyo after a fight with their mother, and Ren had not seen her in a while.

As Ren collects his sister’s belongings in her apartment in Akakawa, he tries to find out more about her new life and also what led to her murder. He then decides to take over Keiko’s teaching position in a cram school.

As he meets the various people she came in contact with, Ren reminisces about growing up with Keiko.

He also finds himself drawn to a young girl whom he refers to as ‘Seven Stars’, who has a rebellious streak which masks something else.

The book is compelling because even though it takes its time to reveal who killed Keiko, it gives us an insight into her character from Ren’s point of view.

From the angelic being who comforted him while their parents fought bitterly and prepared home-cooked meals for him, to the very human creature who sought love in all the wrong places, we learn to accept Keiko’s flaws, like Ren does.

All in, this is a good debut effort by author Clarissa Goenawan.