Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus

One of the reasons I asked to read this book was because the idea of a rental sister sounded real strange.  I also was not familiar with Hikikomori, where someone refuses to leave their bedroom for months or years.  Here's the definition from Wikipedia:  "A Japanese term to refer to the phenomenon of reclusive adolescents or young adults who withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement."  I learned even more reading this book and, while it was unusual, it was believable.  Sometimes life is strange.

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill and Net Galley let me download an ebook of this story for review (thank you).  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

Thomas is unable to deal with the fact that he took his eyes off his son for thirty seconds and that's all the time it took for him to be in the street and get hit by a car.  He feels responsible for his death and just can't deal with the world anymore.  He hides from his wife in the bedroom and won't even talk to her anymore.  In desperation, she seeks a solution that will end things.  He will either get better or she will move on.

The woman chosen to work with him is Japanese.  Her brother was a Hikikomori and committed suicide in his room.  She only wants to talk him out of the room and introduce to him to life, but it grows into more than that.

I find if people are confined in one place, they tend to bond with each other.  Take us away from what is familiar and we will make new friends as insulation against isolation.  In this case, both the major characters had been deeply hurt by the deaths of brother and son who were too young to die.  Together, they discuss their grief and move out of grieving into living again.  How they do that is part of what makes this book interesting.  I will be thinking about this story for quite a while.

Why don't you read it and see what you think?  At the least, you'll learn a bit about Japanese/Korean culture.

Happy reading.  

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