ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Mai has recently married a salaryman and realises she will never be the perfect wife he requires, or the mother of the grandchildren her parents expect. When she meets the mother of an old schoolfriend, she learns that Hikaru has become a recluse who will not leave his room nor interact with anyone physically - a hikikomori.
At his mother's request, she writes letters to him, trying to coax him back into the world. At the same time she is feeling less visible herself...
Between the narratives of Mai and Hikaru are interludes from a westerner in Japan exploring ideas of self, solitude, restlessness and loneliness. This is a mesmerising novel, carefully crafted and quite haunting, something to read slowly and thoughtfully. Lindy
'A compelling story about isolation, duty, desire, fear and escape. As each character in The Shut-Ins feels increasingly trapped by societal pressure, they explore the possibility of retreating to some indefinable, unknowable place. The Shut Ins will appeal to fans of thoughtful literary fiction with a touch of otherworldliness, such as Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah and Earthlings by Sayaka Murata.' - Bookseller & Publisher 'Not only is The Shut Ins a compelling story about hikikomori, those who seek absolute isolation from society, and those who orbit them in their reclusion, it is also a profound exploration of loneliness, solitude, and that peculiar, ineffable yearning for inner or unconscious worlds; the chimeric 'other side'. Katherine Brabon is a precise and contemplative writer, her prose capable of intense, almost-heady evocation. I will read everything she writes.' - Hannah Kent, bestselling author of Burial Rites and The Good People 'Brabon's intellectual and emotional knowledge, and her plainspoken yet spellbinding prose come together in a mesmerising work of art.' - Mireille Juchau, bestselling author of The World Without Us Mai and Hikaru went to school together in the city of Nagoya, until Hikaru disappeared when they were eighteen.
It is not until ten years later, when Mai runs into Hikaru's mother, Hiromi Sato, that she learns Hikaru has become a hikikomori, a recluse unable to leave his bedroom for years. In secret, Hiromi Sato hires Mai as a 'rental sister', to write letters to Hikaru and encourage him to leave his room.
Mai has recently married J, a devoted salaryman with conservative ideas about the kind of wife Mai will be. The renewed contact with her old school friend Hikaru stirs Mai's feelings of invisibility within her marriage. She is frustrated with her life and knows she will never fulfill J's obsession with the perfect wife and mother.
What else is there for Mai to do but to disappear herself?
'I was drawn in utterly by The Shut Ins. It illuminated the world around me in a strange and beautiful light, and it continues to unsettle my thoughts in the best possible way. At once bold and subtle, The Shut Ins is a haunting and transportive reading experience.' Emily Bitto, winner of the Stella Prize for The Strays 'Katherine Brabon's The Shut Ins is quietly mesmerising. Brabon has created an exquisite portrait of loneliness and aloneness through the stories of four interconnected people living in modern day Japan. Her prose is original and vivid, I found myself entranced by this novel from its first sentence to its last.' - Anna Snoekstra, author of Only Daughter