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

by Jeff Backhaus

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1235197,888 (3.75)15
Member:hfineisen
Title:Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel
Authors:Jeff Backhaus
Info:Algonquin Books (2013), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Currently reading
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel by Jeff Backhaus

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Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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 |
Knowing that I am going to be separated from my physical library for a long time has thrown me into a reading frenzy. It's like Sophie's Choice around my house lately. Which books to read (or save) before I say my goodbyes? I don't know if you're guilty of this too, but I mostly hold off on reading books that I know I will love and cherish, and instead read ones that I know I'll just "like". It's like saving the best pieces of a chocolate box until the very end; reading okay books seems to make the real treasures that much more tastier. Am I weird? Am I wrong? Tell me I'm nuts.

Well believe me when I tell you that Hikikomori and the Rental Sister was like a frakkin' chocolate truffle! I'm going to say upfront that it's not a book for everyone, but in my case it was so beautiful and even spiritual! It was odd and unique, but also elegant in light of the Japanese influences related to the story and characters.

Hikikomori is a Japanese word used to describe a person who withdraws from the world and into themselves. Usually some kind of trauma known only to the the person causes this phenomena. Thomas and his wife Silke have experienced a tragic event in their lives, causing Thomas to retreat into his bedroom and never leave it. As a final measure, Silke seeks out a Japanese "rental sister" to lure her husband back into the world. What follows is a unique friendship and understanding between Thomas and Megumi, his hired "rental sister." Reluctantly thrown together, the two soon learn that they haven't fully grieved or accepted their losses.

I stayed up all night and finished this book. I value my sleep, so that means this was pretty darn close to perfection. Who the heck are you, Jeff Backhaus? Where did you come from, and why does the back leaf of your book only include three sentences? Most importantly, what are you working on now? Geez! I need to get it together. I just may be going a little off the deep end here. ( )
1 vote dreamydress48 | Jul 28, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book to be very well written and interesting. While at times I must admit I got rather confused it didn't take to much away from my enjoyment. I'm not sure whether it would be a book I would recommend as its one of those things that seem just impossible or in the very lest on the unbelievable side (3 years is a long time) and that to me took away from the story as I found myself keep thinking does this kinda thing really happen. When I read books that have that feel to them they are mostly of the fantasy/sci-fi genre and this was not. All in all it was a good book but, to me, not a great one.
  justablondemoment | Jul 24, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Rental Sister tells the story of Megumi a Japanese woman and Thomas an American man.Thomas wife hires Megumi as a rental sister for Thomas. A deep relationship develops between Thomas and Megumi. An excellent read.
  Devlindusty | Jun 23, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Jeff Backhaus' The Rental Sister is a novel inspired by the Japanese social phenomenon "hikikomori," where one withdraws from society, and the professional “rental sisters” hired to help. The narrative is divided between the thoughts of Thomas, an emotionally scarred New Yorker who has isolated himself from the world and his wife for three years in his bedroom, and Megumi, a Japanese immigrant who came to New York to escape her own past.

Backhaus beautifully weaves their intimate stories together while making observations on the world form an outsider's perspective. ( )
  lucas.schneider | Jun 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (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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