Friday, January 25, 2013

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister - Jeff Backhaus

I am not a professional book reviewer, but I know a good story when I read one - an honest to goodness story that can reach into your heart and twist at emotions, making you feel completely wrapped in another person's experience. In this book, I have settled into the grief and guilt and fear that its central character wallows in. Thomas has been slammed by a wrenching experience that he cannot get over, come to terms with, move on from ... so what does he do? He turns his back on life, on wife, on career, on friends, on even the most mundane things. Thomas is hikikomori ... a modern day hermit in his small Manhattan apartment ... with his wife right down the hall. What does she do? She becomes increasingly saddened, angry, desperate, resigned, and finally, proactive. She hires a 'rental sister'. The rental sister, Megumi is a young beautiful Japanese immigrant with her own set of issues, but she becomes the link between Thomas, the world, the wife, the grief, the confrontation, and (is it possible ?) the healing.

This a layered novel that jumps between first and third person narrative, telling a story of emotional trauma, isolation, intimacy, and just what one does for love. No words are wasted and the story flows  in bits and starts, like a faucet that comes on and off, off and on, off and on. There are beautiful sparsely worded images that will make you stop and contemplate, get lost in the thought, take time to remove yourself a bit from the book and go into your head. There are softly sensual passages that demand you contemplate intimacy on the physical and psychological planes. There is a baring of  the different characters' souls that makes your heart ache and makes you need to put the book down for a while, for who doesn't grapple with emotional isolation, guilt, second guessing, denial, and escape at different times in one's life?

This is a good little book. No, I'm no professional book reviewer, but I do know a good story when I read one.

Image from Backhaus' website

For an interesting take on Jeff Backhaus and his approach to his writing craft, check out Largehearted Boy's post on this book here.  Interesting ... and the music is wonderful.

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