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The Rental Sister

A Novel

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


hikikomori, n. h?kik?'mo?ri; literally pulling inward; refers to those who withdraw from society.

Inspired by the real-life Japanese social phenomenon called hikikomori and the professional “rental sisters” hired to help, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister is about an erotic relationship between Thomas, an American hikikomori, 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, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister pierces the emotional walls of grief and delves into the power of human connection to break through to the world waiting outside. 

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.

From Publishers Weekly

Sep 10, 2012 – Hikikomori, Backhaus explains in his implausible debut, is the Japanese term for withdrawn, an experience apparently more common than Silke Tessler realizes when she goes looking for help for her husband, Thomas, who shut himself up in a room three years earlier and has barely been outside of it since. Though the traditional rental sister concept evidently an antidote for a hikikomori remains vague, in this novel it means that Silke hires a beautiful 22-year-old Japanese girl to bring Thomas back into the world. Lucky for him, oral sex and illicit nights together hiding from Silke work wonders with even the most reclusive. While the intellectual underpinning of the book could be said to pose interesting questions about guilt, love, and renewal, more often than not it reads like an adolescent fantasy in which Thomas, in order to save himself and his marriage, must subject himself to Megumi s immense sexual appetite; what could be better than a wife-approved tryst with a publicly demure but privately voracious young woman who wants nothing in return? Blatant metaphors of winter, spring, and a spiritually cleansing trip to the hot springs don t buoy the disagreeable proceedings.

Customer Reviews

Enjoyable overall

The simple, unpretentious prose made for a quick read, and the pacing kept me hooked. The novel had more adult themes than I was prepared for, which might be an issue for more sensitive or younger readers. There were changes in narration that were a little awkward, going from "I" to "she" to "they," but the interesting characters made up for it. I expected the last quarter of the book to dive deeply into the main character's justifications and psyche after he made some key decisions, but it felt conspicuously tidy, predictable, and as if the author was getting tired of writing the story. That rushed feeling was unfortunate, because the rest of the book was quite thorough and fresh. It's worth reading if you want to spend $12 for a day or three of entertainment.

The Rental Sister
View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: Jan 08, 2013
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings

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