The Rental Sister: A Novel

The Rental Sister: A Novel

by Jeff Backhaus
     
 

hikikomori, n. h?kik?'mo?ri; 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,

Overview

hikikomori, n. h?kik?'mo?ri; 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.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist

“A mesmerizing debut at once sorrowful, intimate, and optimistic . . . Told in crisp and lyrical prose and a nontraditional narrative that shifts between first- and third-person, Backhaus’s novel is courageous and spare, an enthralling success.”—Booklist, starred review

The Wall Street Journal

“[A] strange and tender debut novel . . . His writing, which is as clear and direct as flowing water, convincingly portrays the deepening connection between Thomas and Megumi.”

The New York Post

“Required reading.”

The Toronto Star

“This is one remarkable debut.”

St. Louis Post Dispatch

“Written deeply, cleanly, sparely and gently, like fingers playing over the strings of a harp.”

Reviews

“A mesmerizing debut at once sorrowful, intimate, and optimistic . . . Told in crisp and lyrical prose and a nontraditional narrative that shifts between first- and third-person, Backhaus’s novel is courageous and spare, an enthralling success.” —Booklist, starred review

“[A] strange and tender debut novel . . . His writing, which is as clear and direct as flowing water, convincingly portrays the deepening connection between Thomas and Megumi.” —The Wall Street Journal

“This is one remarkable debut.” —The Toronto Star

“Tender and deftly rendered.” —Arkansas Democrat Gazette

“The book is . . . written deeply, cleanly, sparely and gently, like fingers playing over the strings of a harp. Jeff Backhaus has apparently worked at many jobs, but it seems that he has now found his vocation.” —St. Louis Post Dispatch

“Listen to the music of this novel closely. It is the sound of genius. To miss it would be to miss a story that will change the way you feel about your own life.” Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife

“Required reading.” —The New York Post

From the Publisher

“A mesmerizing debut at once sorrowful, intimate, and optimistic . . . Told in crisp and lyrical prose and a nontraditional narrative that shifts between first- and third-person, Backhaus’s novel is courageous and spare, an enthralling success.” —Booklist, starred review

“[A] strange and tender debut novel . . . His writing, which is as clear and direct as flowing water, convincingly portrays the deepening connection between Thomas and Megumi.” —The Wall Street Journal

“This is one remarkable debut.” —The Toronto Star

“Tender and deftly rendered.” —Arkansas Democrat Gazette

“The book is . . . written deeply, cleanly, sparely and gently, like fingers playing over the strings of a harp. Jeff Backhaus has apparently worked at many jobs, but it seems that he has now found his vocation.” —St. Louis Post Dispatch

“Listen to the music of this novel closely. It is the sound of genius. To miss it would be to miss a story that will change the way you feel about your own life.” Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife

“Required reading.” —The New York Post

Library Journal
In Japan, hikikomori refers to a disturbing social phenomenon in which troubled young men become recluses, hiding in their childhood bedrooms and avoiding contact with even their own families. Thomas Tessler is an American hikikomori. Thomas has a reason for his severe depression. His little son was hit by a car three years ago, and he feels responsible for the boy's death. Since then, the bereaved man has locked himself in a room in the Manhattan apartment he still shares with his wife, Silke. In desperation, Silke finds a "rental sister" named Megumi at a Japanese shop, hoping that she can help Thomas. (Families of Japanese hikikomori sometimes seek the help of specially trained young women to work with their troubled sons.) Megumi gradually forms a relationship with Thomas that is much more than sisterly. VERDICT This debut has a claustrophobic feel owing to its subject matter, but Backhaus provides a light at the end of the tunnel and some hope for his tormented characters.—Leslie Patterson, Brown Univ. Libs., MA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616203269
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
04/29/2014
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

What People are saying about this

author of "A Reliable Wife" Robert Goolrick

“Listen to the music of this novel closely. It is the sound of genius. To miss it would be to miss a story that will change the way you feel about your own life.”

Meet the Author

Jeff Backhaus has been a cook, an art director, and a professional pilot. He lived and worked in Korea and now lives in New York. Author website: www.jeffbackhaus.com.

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