The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan

‘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 spent her last days.  They hope to find answers and they will, just not necessarily the answers they thought they were looking for.

Meanwhile, Ryusei’s sister Fumi looks after Miwako’s cat and thinks about her own relationship with Miwako.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about Miwako, Ryusei, Chie and Fumi.  Each of these characters has their own story, each story involves secrets, each life has layers of complexity.

‘There are two types of farewells: the expected and the unexpected.’

I was gradually drawn into this story, curious to learn more about Miwako. Both Chie and Ryusei know about part of Miwako’s life.  Together, at the rural medical clinic in the remote village, they will make sense of what they know.  I kept reading, wondering about the weight of expectations (especially on Miwako and Fumi) and the role of the supernatural.  Relationships are important, as is trust.  Miwako has helped Chie but is unable to allow Ryusei to help her.  And Fumi has her own battles.  Acceptance and forgiveness are both important.

This is a story to read slowly, to think about and perhaps to revisit.  After I finished, I added Ms Goenawan’s first book ‘Rainbirds’ to my reading list.

Highly recommended.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Scribe UK for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith