Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel by…

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

by Jeff Backhaus

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1335290,390 (3.74)16
Title:Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel
Authors:Jeff Backhaus
Info:Algonquin Books (2013), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Currently reading

Work details

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel by Jeff Backhaus



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
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All three of the main characters have withdrawn from life although Thomas is the most extreme example.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 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (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)
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
15 wanted2 pay2 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.74)
1 2
2 2
2.5 1
3 11
3.5 2
4 30
4.5 3
5 7


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alumn

The Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus was made available through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Sign up to possibly get pre-publication copies of books.

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 105,912,254 books! | Top bar: Always visible