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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (309 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jeff Backhaus Narrator: Stephen Bowlby Publisher: Highbridge Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Thomas Tessler, devastated by a tragedy, has cloistered himself in his bedroom and shut out the world for the past three years. His wife, Silke, lives in the next room, but Thomas no longer shares his life with her, leaving his hideout only in the wee hours of the night to buy food at the store around the corner from their Manhattan apartment. Isolated, withdrawn, damaged, Thomas is hikikomori.

Desperate to salvage their life together, Silke hires Megumi, a young Japanese woman attuned to the hikikomori phenomenon, to lure Thomas back into the world. In Japan Megumi is called a “rental sister,” though her job may involve much more than familial comforts. As Thomas grows to trust Megumi, a deepening and sensual relationship unfolds. But what are the risks of such intimacy? And what must these three broken people surrender in order to find hope?

Revelatory and provocative, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister tears through the emotional walls of grief and delves into the power of human connection to break through to the waiting world outside.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[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.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “One remarkable debut.”

    Toronto Star

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

    St. Louis Post Dispatch

  • “Required reading.”

    New York Post

  • “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] quiet but poignant exploration of loneliness and self-discovery.”

    USA Today

  • Selected for the January 2013 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Leah | 2/14/2014

    " this was lovely, so strange and touching. i cringed a little at the descriptions of sex from a woman's point of view (by the male author) but it was a great book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Nancy | 2/9/2014

    " Maybe this happens in Japan, but the premise was too unbelievable for an american man. If Silke was this dynamic career woman, as the author implies, she would never have put up with Thomas' shenanigans. If it had been me, I would have committed him. I only finished the book to find out who the winner was. (If you can call Thomas a prize) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Morgana | 1/24/2014

    " Beautiful, taut and almost impossible for me to put down. Maybe just a tiny smidgen of hackneyed language in the final chapters and their arc, but it would be churlish to complain. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Kris Marasca | 1/23/2014

    " Boring. None of the characters had any life to them. "

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About 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.