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<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>
<div> <p>hikikomori, n. hɪkikəˈmoʊri; <em>literally pulling inward; refers to those who withdraw from society.</em><br /><br />Inspired by the real-life Japanese social phenomenon called <em>hikikomori</em> and the professional “rental sisters” hired to help, <em>Hikikomori and the Rental Sister</em> is about an erotic relationship between Thomas, an American <em>hikikomori,</em> 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, <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. <br /><br />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.</p> </div>