Hikikomori And The Rental Sister

Paperback | January 1, 2013

byJeff Backhaus

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Devastated by the death of his son, an American man named Thomas barricades himself in his New York bedroom for three years, leaving his apartment only at night to pick up food. This shutting away is known in Japan as hikikomori, and Thomas’s desperate wife, Silke, decides to hire a young Japanese woman, Megumi, who has been trained to lure such people back into society. But the “rental sister”—as such women are called in Japan—has had her own secret, shattering experience. Her young brother, now dead, was also a hikikomori and Megumi has buried her pain and her anger in a fast life spent in nightclubs with anonymous men. What will happen when the lives of these three needy people triangulate? Strange, erotic, mesmerizing, this brilliant and tender novel mirrors both East and West in its search for healing.

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From the Publisher

Devastated by the death of his son, an American man named Thomas barricades himself in his New York bedroom for three years, leaving his apartment only at night to pick up food. This shutting away is known in Japan as hikikomori, and Thomas’s desperate wife, Silke, decides to hire a young Japanese woman, Megumi, who has been trained to lure such people back into society. But the “rental sister”—as...

JEFF BACKHAUS has been a cook, an art director and a professional pilot. He has lived and worked in Korea and now lives in New York. This is his first novel. Visit him online at www.jeffbackhaus.com or follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Backhaus.

other books by Jeff Backhaus

Hikikomori
Hikikomori

Paperback|Jun 3 2013

$36.95

Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.75 × 6.35 × 1 inPublished:January 1, 2013Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1443418005

ISBN - 13:9781443418003

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Withdrawn but not alone "Hikikomori" is a social phenomenon where individuals acutely withdraw from society and lead a solitary life within the confines of their own home. It is recognized by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in definable terms, and has such a rippling effect on those connected to hikikomoris, and on the fabric of Japanese society, that there are professionals who work towards helping such recluses out of their isolation. Jeff Backhaus writes of a hikikomori living in New York. Thomas has shut himself in his bedroom away from the world for 3 years, only venturing out in the cover of night once in a while to stock up on food. His wife, Silke, is almost at her breaking point - she's just as lost as Thomas is, and in addition, is desperate to get the man she loves back. She hires Megumi, an immigrant from Japan as a "rental sister" as a last-ditch attempt to help coax Thomas out of his room. "Hikikomori and the Rental Sister" unfolds in three acts: The Isolation, The Contact, and The Aftermath. Each act reveals something more of Thomas, Megumi, and Silke, and the circumstances that they have found themselves in. The matters and progression of the story can be tough to take at parts but they are handled in a very delicate manner as to not overwhelm or understate their importance. The unpredictable narrative goes back and forth between a first-person voice of Thomas, to a third-person mode accounting mostly Megumi's side of the story. This alternation was jarring initially, but it became quite the smart way to juxtapose the inner thoughts of the hermit and the characters' dealings in the external world. Backhaus, with his experience working in Korea, seems to have a respectable understanding of the Japanese and Korean culture and society, and puts it to good use in his forthright portrayals of them. Even though the novel is set in the western world, it invoked an eastern air, and for most of the novel, I kept having to remind myself that the story wasn't set in Asia but in North America. This made it reminiscent to Haruki Murakami's novels, where they are mostly set in Japan but have a western tone to them. I'm a fan of Murakami, so I took a liking to Backhaus' style as well, and with a topic being something I've never heard or read of till now, "Hikikomori and the Rental Sister" is refreshingly intriguing and is a remarkable debut from Jeff Backhaus.
Date published: 2013-01-12