Translator: Geoffrey Trousselot
Series: Before the Coffee Gets Cold #1
Published by Hanover Square Press on November 17, 2020 (first published 2015)
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
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What would you change if you could go back in time?
In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer's, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .
Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?
Before the Coffee Gets Cold is simple, lovely, and quirky. There’s a cafe in Japan where you can travel in time if you sit in a certain chair. Of course, there are restrictions, as you can read in the blurb above. All of the book happens in the cafe, so we get to know the people who work there and the regulars. I don’t know if we really get to know them or just get a peek into their lives. We see who they are at the cafe, how they interact with the others there, but not what they do, who they are otherwise, aside from what we’re told. It’s interesting that, unless someone is there specifically to go back in time, time travel is rarely talked about. It’s just part of the cafe, unremarkable to those who are most familiar with it.
In this book, we see four trips in time. Each individual knows that the present can’t be changed, but has something they need to say or someone they need to see one time. One woman needs to tell her boyfriend something she didn’t get to tell him before he moved to America. Another needs to ask her husband for a letter he never gave her. The third wants to see her sister one last time and the fourth visits the daughter she never got to meet. The stories are touching. Time travel is the hook, but the book is more about relationships and communication. The book is a slow read, at least it was for me, but worth the time.