Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus
Algonquin, January 2013
256 pgs., 4 stars
ABOUT THE BOOK: “Hikikomori” is the Japanese term for shutting oneself in, away from the world. In Hikikomori and the Rental Sister, Thomas Tressler and his wife, Silke, lost a son. Thomas blames himself and shuts himself in his room for three years. His wife has had enough. She has tried everything to get him to come out, even having sex with other men within earshot.
She hires Megumi as a “rental sister,” which is a person who coaxes the shut-in out of their isolation through various methods, but mostly through talking. Megumi has past experience with Hikikomori and knows how to handle it. But being Thomas’s rental sister becomes more of an emotional investment than she initially planned. Trips down a painful memory lane and romantic feelings for the shut-in complicate their “sisterly” relationship.
Can love cure all? Will Thomas ever be able to face the world again, and resume his old life?
The writing is incredible! Backhaus brings to life extremely complex characters and situations that are rich with emotion. The insight into Japanese culture adds a needed depth and a human connection across cultural boundaries. This book is a beautiful portrait of love and loss and regeneration.
ABOUT THE OUTFIT: Hey little sister, wipe the tears off your cheeks and mask your red rimmed eyes with dark makeup. This grunge chic eye shadow will cover up all kinds of heartbreak as you pick up the pieces and move on.
Sparkly black nails are perfect for those nights out with the girls. They show your wild side, which you keep in check until you desperately need a distraction.
These tight black jeans can easily oscillate between clubbing fare and everyday wear. Black is always stylish and with this stark red shirt the effect is stunning and a bit intimidating (just like you). This neutral, but girly, sweater softens your intensity and defends you from the NYC chill.
Your iPhone case sports the Japanese flag. Your family still lives there, and Japan beckons to you. You can’t help but compare everything to your homeland from relationships to food. Despite your desire to stay in New York, home is where your heart is.