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Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister: A Novel

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3.89

(38)
|Views: 13 |Likes:
Published by Workman Publishing
hikikomori, n. hɪkikəˈmoʊri; literally pulling inward; refers to those who withdraw from society.Inspired by the real-life Japanese social phenomenon called hikikomori and the professional “rental sisters” hired to help, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister is about an erotic relationship between Thomas, an American hikikomori, and Megumi, a young Japanese immigrant hiding from her own past. The strange, insular world they create together in a New York City bedroom and with the tacit acknowledgment of Thomas’s wife reveals three human hearts in crisis, but leaves us with a profound faith in the human capacity to find beauty and meaning in life, even after great sorrow. Mirroring both East and West in its search for healing, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister pierces the emotional walls of grief and delves into the power of human connection to break through to the world waiting outside. Named an Indie Next pick, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, one of Book Riot’s 5 to Watch, and an iBookstore Editor’s Choice in hardcover.
hikikomori, n. hɪkikəˈmoʊri; literally pulling inward; refers to those who withdraw from society.Inspired by the real-life Japanese social phenomenon called hikikomori and the professional “rental sisters” hired to help, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister is about an erotic relationship between Thomas, an American hikikomori, and Megumi, a young Japanese immigrant hiding from her own past. The strange, insular world they create together in a New York City bedroom and with the tacit acknowledgment of Thomas’s wife reveals three human hearts in crisis, but leaves us with a profound faith in the human capacity to find beauty and meaning in life, even after great sorrow. Mirroring both East and West in its search for healing, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister pierces the emotional walls of grief and delves into the power of human connection to break through to the world waiting outside. Named an Indie Next pick, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, one of Book Riot’s 5 to Watch, and an iBookstore Editor’s Choice in hardcover.

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Publish date: Dec 19, 2012
Added to Scribd: Aug 02, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9781616201371
List Price: $23.95

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11/04/2014

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9781616201371

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melopher_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
Intriguing premise - telling the story of an American man who finds himself reacting to life in a [generally] un-American way: hikikomori. I liked finding out more about Thomas and Megumi's stories, but wished to know more of the very two dimensional Silke. There was the makings of a great story here, but there were parts that sounded too much like they were drawn from male fantasy...and that I didn't enjoy. The writing was too simplistic to make me truly sympathetic.
iamindeed reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Retreating in grief and hiding to lick your wounds is not an uncommon phenomenon, but when that retreat progresses to an unhealthy isolation and can last for years, who are you indulging, and who is indulging you in your retreat from life. Just one of the several questions brought forward on the reading of this book. First I needed to check several sources to get the best feeling for a very Japanese idea that does not always translate well. Hikkomori: the closing off of oneself from the outside world, denying interaction with others, hiding where it’s safe. Of course, to properly practice this retreat, one needs to have someone who is supportive, who wants to listen, and who patiently will ‘wait the phase out’. As Silke has reached the end of her patience and ideas to help heal, she brings in a woman who, with her newness and strangeness may be able to reach and heal Thomas, or relieve him of some of the heaviness.

In a lyrically written piece, the author is not asking us to understand Thomas’ retreat, nor is he asking for forgiveness, but simply stating what is, as It happened, in all the odd permutations of this triad so desperate for healing. Intensely personal in feeling, the grief and guilt that Thomas carries within are palpable, and in a strange way, beautiful in its richness and detail. The three all need some form of healing and forgiveness, perhaps mostly from themselves, but the depths to which Thomas has sunk in his isolation, and the guilt Silke feels for letting it progress to such a degree are not instantly solved, but slowly eroded in little bits. With a very interesting, and at times puzzling, juxtaposition of the dual cultural approaches presented, and the author’s facile handling of the story that never runs to overt pathos, this is a gripping read that is intense in both the story and the thoughts it leaves behind.

I received an eBook copy from Publisher through NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my own responsibility.
shearon_3 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
New Yorker Thomas Tessler hasn’t left his bedroom in over three years following the accidental death of his young son, for which Thomas blames himself. His wife, Silke, is desperate to get her husband back so she retains Megumi as a “rental sister” to try to coax her husband out of his room. Megumi, too, is grieving over her lost brother and alienation from her family. The story is very interesting but after Thomas and Megumi are intimate (like you didn’t see that coming) and a confused emotional bond develops, it loses its earlier uniqueness and becomes another love triangle with the various characters’ struggle among love, guilt, honor, duty, the past and the future. But it is a good story and definitely worth the read.Thanks to Library Thing Early Reviewers for the chance to read this book.
jolleyg_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
After the shock of witnessing his son die, run over by a car, Thomas Tessler suffered from a sense of overburdening guilt that he didn’t somehow prevent it from happening. So he retreats from the world with his scarred psyche and barricades himself in his bedroom, only coming out for the occasional midnight trek to the convenience store to replenish his supplies.Thomas’ wife Silke has stayed with him over the years, in spite of being locked out of his life and unable to persuade him to let her help him. It is not clear why she has been so faithful and persistent. Then she learns about a Japanese woman, Megumi, who is working in a Japanese confectionary shop and who has some experience with people who become hikikomori — the Japanese term for people who become fearful and refuse to go outside their rooms. Her brother was also a hikikomori.Megumi is suffering from her own sense of guilt about not being able to help her brother, but her form of retreat is to leave Japan and move to New York where she tries to forget the past through getting drunk with her friends and indulging in frequent sexual liaisons with the men she and her friends meet in bars.She does not want to help Thomas, but agrees to one meeting just to get Silke to stop asking her. Of course, one meeting leads to another until she finds herself falling in love with Thomas, and Thomas finds himself responding to Megumi’s need.Thomas, Silke and Megumi are each trapped in a solitary world of their own making. Silke and Megumi may be working and going through the motions in the outside world, but they are just as frozen inside themselves as Thomas is. So which is the more authentic response to psychic pain, which is the more authentic existence?Jeff Backhaus creates a sparse scenario, kind of like a Japanese garden, and he uses many uncanny images to convey the feelings of pain, separation and healing. His characters are like Noh actors — somewhat formulaic and whose depths are hidden behind wooden masks — but the story is intriguing, and his writing style is beautiful and thought provoking.My favorite quote from the book is: “No matter how big we try to make our world, in the end it’s just ourselves.” This message may sound simplistic on one level, but taken into deeper consideration it reveals a truth about each of our lives that we might want to take time to contemplate.
sunqueen_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
A strange and beautiful novel, in which all the main characters hide secret heartbreaks. The premise was interesting at first, but got a bit bogged down with repetitive elements that took away from the main plot.
johnborghi reviewed this
Rated 1/5
This is a novel about a very intimate and very private sort of conflict. The main character, and sometimes narrator, Tom has retreated into his room following a tragedy- his relationship with his wife is strained to the point that she is willing to try anything to get him to rejoin the rest of his life. Enter Megumi, whose history allows her a unique perspective on what has happened to Tom and how to help him.This is also a relationship with a surprising lack of conflict. For a novel containing so many painful elements, almost none of it comes through on the page. We know that Tom has retreated into himself because he, very explicitly, says so in his periodic narration. We understand the reasons for Megumi's feelings because she, very explicitly, says them aloud to Tom. The moments of drama that due occur, most notably the fire, are tremendously unearned and generally have no consequence than to move the plot forward. Overall, Hikkomori and the Rental Sister is mostly just disappointing. There is the potential for interesting story telling here, the central conflict certainly has enough of the elements. But the novel gets bogged down in overly florid prose and carefully constructed happy endings to leave a lasting impression. In the end, I was more interested in the noodles Megumi spent seemingly every page describing than Tom and his retreat.
lismb_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
Hikikomori and the Rental Story was an unusual story about a man who has locked himself in his room for three years following a devastating, life changing event. This is an adult married man whose wife is ready to try one more thing before calling it quits. She enlists the help of a woman who had a brother who was also self-confined to his room. This story is an easy read and interesting. I wish it had visited a little deeper into the mental state of the main character.
michaelbartley reviewed this
Rated 4/5
a very interesting idea for a book. it seems that in Japan there is rental sisters, a woman it acts as counselor, sister, best friend, perhaps sex worker to help people with emotional problems. in this book, a man is in a deep deprestion because his young son was killed. he withdraws from the world and lives in his bedroom. his wife then hires a rental sister to bring him back into the world. i like the ending and the begining, the middles not so much
beamis12 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
An original comcept for a novel, but about a real phenomenon that occurs when people are unable to face the societal demands inposed on them. This book has many univeral themes such as the different way people handle grief, the desire to save a marriage and the hoplessness one feels when they are confronted with things out of their control. In clear and concise prose Backhaus and written a very interesting novel with wonderful characters who find a unique answer to a devastating problem.
jazzmin52 reviewed this
Jeff Backhaus tells a profoundly moving story in his powerful novel Hikikomori and the Rental Sister. Devastated by tragedy, Thomas has withdrawn from the world - confining himself to a locked room in his apartment, slipping out late at night to pick up groceries at a nearby store. He refuses to see his wife Silke who waits in misery on the other side of that door having exhausted every means she can think of to bring him back. In desperation, Silke hires Megumi - a young Japanese immigrant who has personal experience with the hikikomori situation - to become Thomas's "rental sister" (as they are called in Japan)whose purpose is to help him return to the world. This is a beautiful novel - every emotion rings true, every description resonates with a music all it's own. I love this book - it deserves all the praise it's receiving.

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