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<p>Thomas Tessler has cloistered himself in his bedroom and shut out the world for the past three years. His wife, Silke, lives right in the next room, but Thomas no longer shares his life with her, leaving his hideout only occasionally, in the wee hours of the night, to pick up food at the grocery store around the corner from their Manhattan apartment. Unable to cope with a devastating loss, Thomas has become isolated and withdrawn. He is <em>hikikomori.</em> <br /><br />Desperate for one last chance to salvage their life together, Silke hires Megumi, a young Japanese immigrant attuned to the hikikomori phenomenon, to lure Thomas back into the world. Fleeing from her own shattering experience, Megumi has buried her pain in a fast life spent in nightclubs with nameless men. Now she will try to help Thomas and Silke as a “rental sister,” as they are known in Japan. At first Thomas remains steadfast and sequestered, but as he grows to trust Megumi, a deepening and sensual relationship unfolds. <br /><br /><em>Hikikomori and the Rental Sister</em> is a taut novel that packs a big philosophical punch. In this revelatory and provocative debut, Jeff Backhaus asks, What are the risks of intimacy? Can another woman ever lead a husband back to his wife? And what must we surrender for love? <em>Hikikomori and the Rental Sister</em> pierces the emotional walls of grief and delves into the power of human connection to break through to the world waiting outside.</p>
<strong>Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2013</strong><strong>:</strong> The Japanese term <em>hikikomori</em> is hard to track down in American dictionaries: It means a complete withdrawal from society, often following an acute trauma. You wouldn’t think a novel about this alienating concept would inspire empathy, but Jeff Backhaus’s intimate and moving portrait of a man hiding away from the world will wholly suck you in. After the death of his young son in a careless accident, Thomas disappears into his bedroom for three years. Desperate to bring him back, his wife hires Megumi, a young Japanese woman, to serve as a "rental sister," hoping that her personal experience with Thomas's affliction will help them establish a bond. The relationship that unfolds between Thomas and Megumi is extraordinary, rendered with quiet beauty, anger, and a deep sensuality. It’s nearly impossible to believe that this heartbreaking novel is a debut--we should all keep a selfish eye on Jeff Backhaus, lest he retreat too far into his own head and stop sharing his talent with the rest of us. --<em>Mia Lipman</em>