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Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel by…
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Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel (edition 2013)

by Jeff Backhaus

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1365388,280 (3.71)16
Member:hfineisen
Title:Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel
Authors:Jeff Backhaus
Info:Algonquin Books (2013), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Currently reading
Rating:****
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Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel by Jeff Backhaus

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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
This book was well written, and able to hold my attention, but as someone else said it was more of a grown man's fantasy woman than a hikikomori and a "secret sister". I'm not shocked by the sex or anything like that, I just thought it would be more like a geisha situation instead of basically a prostitute. I didn't hate the book, but it definitely isn't a favorite. ( )
  KnivesBoone | Jul 29, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is set in New York City but it references a Japanese life style so completely that it seems like it could be happening in Tokyo. I thought it was an interesting story and it was beautifully written but, in the end, it didn’t seem quite real to me.
Thomas has been staying in his room for 3 years, emerging only in the dead of night to buy groceries. Then he retreats to his room, shuts the door and deadbolts it. He hasn’t seen his wife, Silke, in all that time except from the dark hallway as he passes her bedroom when he goes out to buy groceries. Some tragedy caused him to go into his room and nothing Silke says or does will bring him out. Then Megumi, a young Japanese girl, is hired by Silke to be his rental sister. In Japan people like Thomas are called hikikomori and Megumi is familiar with them because her own brother was one. At first Megumi does not want to be a rental sister to Thomas because her experience with her brother was very traumatic. She is unable to say no to Silke though so she goes to talk to Thomas just the one time. Although Thomas is silent for the first visit Megumi finds she is unable to stay away.
All three of the main characters have withdrawn from life although Thomas is the most extreme example. By the end they are ready to re-enter the world and are better for having encountered each other. It is almost like a fairy tale where everything ends happily ever after which is what bothered me about the book. However, sometimes it is nice to retreat to tales that do end happily. ( )
  gypsysmom | Nov 7, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What seemed like a dubious premise--this person locking himself in his room for years--could have gone either way. I am happy to report that it was very effective, and the auther acheived a compelling balance of suspense, emotional depth and intimate psychological insight. Highly recommended, if you're ready for something troubling and irresistable. ( )
  the_darling_copilots | Oct 9, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Immediately compelling. Emotionally gripping. Instantly there is a mystery with a man who has locked himself in his room for three years, refusing to come out (hikikomori). The book was extremely intimate, sometimes uncomfortably so as the reader is slowly drawn into the pain, frustration, and grief of the three primary characters. The story is beautiful in its compassion and healing as well as forgiveness and insight. What the writer shares about the Korean and Japanese culture is of particular interest. A troubling but engrossing read that leaves the reader feeling emotionally spent but gratified. ( )
  TheLoopyLibrarian | Sep 28, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
First published on We Should Make T-Shirts.

This novel was incredibly sad on so many levels. A family tragedy is the catalyst for Thomas' isolation in his room. He's locked himself in for the last three years; only coming out occasionally in the middle of the night when he needs to stock up on groceries. Can you imagine not seeing your spouse for that long? Or anybody, really, except for the few people you pass on the street on your way to the convenience store.



Megumi is the woman hired by Thomas' wife (Silke) to talk to him and try to coax him out. Her brother was once in the same situation when she still lived in Japan. I'm a little confused about how Silke found Megumi in the first place. She seems to know the owner of the shop Megumi works at who suggested hiring Megumi. But how did she find the owner? Was there an ad somewhere for these situations? Maybe in Japan, where there is an actual term for this ("Hikikomori"), but in New York City?

Megumi begins to get through to Thomas, and their relationship grows fairly drastically. Silke seems to be aware of their feelings, but lets it continue, because she's not exactly innocent either. There's a lot of hurt going back and forth, but the hurt is a lot better than the silence that used to be there. And maybe you have to hit rock bottom in order to start healing.

Having never been in this situation or experienced this amount of loss, I can't say how true to life the characters reactions are. But, it all felt believable to me. ( )
  brittanygates | Jul 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Backhaus writes beautifully; there’s no fault to be found with his prose. However, the story itself just doesn’t hold together; it’s too close to realism to be magical and so readers may struggle to suspend disbelief. The concept itself—and the question as to why the U.S. hasn’t experienced the sort of “hikikomori" phenomena, although perhaps the current crop of basement-dwelling, Cheetos-eating, underemployed young men constitute our version of it—is one that would be worth exploring in a novel.
added by KelMunger | editLit/Rant, Kel Munger (Jul 24, 2013)
 
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Estranged from the husband who cloistered himself in his bedroom three years earlier after a devastating tragedy, Silke hires a young Japanese woman to draw him back into the world by establishing a deeply intimate relationship with him.

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