Monday 12 July 2021

Book Review: The Shut Ins by Katherine Brabon (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: The Shut Ins
Author: Katherine Brabon
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 2 July 2021
Format: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: ARC from Publisher

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?


The Shut Ins was an intriguing and thought-provoking read, and the author's experiences and thoughts that appeared between the sections complimented the main story nicely. This book is probably timely, since it gives the opportunity to compare the shut-in experiences of the hikikomori and those of people trapped indoors against their wishes due to lockdowns. A part of me wanted a little more closure at the end on certain aspects and with certain characters; however, I assume the open-ended nature of the piece was so that we, as readers, could decide what we thought had happened. Overall, this was a 4-star read for me, and I would certainly be happy to read more from this author in the future.

I received this book as a free ARC from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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