The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan [in Library Journal]
Indonesian-born, Singaporean-domiciled Clarissa Goenawan (Rainbirds) takes her sophomore title back to a death in remote Japan. This time, death arrives via suicide, claiming the titular Miwako, an enigmatic university sophomore who disappears without notice, and is found only after death. Desperate to comprehend her fatal choices, Miwako’s would-be boyfriend Ryusei (his love unrequited) and her high school best friend Chie attempt to retrace Miwako’s journey to a mountainside clinic where she was volunteering shortly before she died. Ryusei’s older sister Fumi – a painter moonlighting as a bar hostess – who Miwako briefly assisted, knows the dead girl least, and yet will be the one to whom the full truth is revealed.
With the narration divided by gender – David Shih as Ryu, Cindy Kay as both Chie and Fumi – Shih’s performance proves convincingly stronger, his verging-on-growly voice ideal for Ryu, deepening as his adoration grows, harsher as his anguish overwhelms. Kay has the more challenging role, attempting to distinguish Chie and Fumi (her distinctions are too subtle), adding in Miwako whose characterization will require unexpected vocal adjustments.
Despite occasional stumbles, Goenawan’s intriguing plot twists should keep listeners engaged until the tragic whydunnit.
Review: modified from “Audio,” Library Journal, June 1, 2020