Before the Coffee Gets Cold
by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
ebook, 224 pages
Published September 19th 2019 by Picador
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 – translated from Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot – 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?
I received an eARC from publishers through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in anyway.
If you could go back in time and do things you wanted without causing any change to the present, what would you like to do?
I’ve been seeing this book quite a lot on the blogosphere and I find the premise to be really unique. Not only the time travelling cafe aspect of this book is unique, the synopsis also gave me a sense of quiet and simplicity I’ve never felt from reading other book’s synopsis.
What stood out the most for me is how this quiet is also present in the book. It has a simplistic writing style that conveys the quiet and mundane elements of the cafe, like the daily routine of the cafe, the customers, and how it prepares a cup of coffee. And yet it also manages to convey the strange and quiet magic that happened in the cafe, along with the nostalgia and emotions that happened with each character’s trips. It is also very immersive that feels as if you’re sitting there in the cool cafe and watching the patrons come and go. The writing has a forward-backward plot that helps us get to know each characters intimately and why they want to took their trip, but unfortunately, I find some of the details to be necessary.
There are four stories in this book, all of them have some kind of bittersweet ending in where they could finish their unfinished business and unresolved questions with people who got away (in many sense of the word). And yet, with their current situation cannot be changed, their loss and heartache remains there. In a way, it’s not a story about trying to change the present, but about gaining closure and spending precious time with someone you lost. Each story explores the same theme of letting go, but also love and sacrifices we made for the people we loved. While I cried at each story, as the book progresses, I find each stories got sadder so prepare some tissues while reading. My favorite is definitely the third story, but I think when I’m older I’ll appreciate the second and fourth story more.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a unique book in terms of premise, writing, and the way the stories made me feel. It’s actually quite short and is a quick read, however I took my time reading it as I want to soak up the calming atmosphere and the relationships between the characters and their loved ones. With the time-travel unable to change anything in the present, this book gives a way for the characters to have a sense of closure with their loved ones. It makes me feel sad, but also warm and happy at the same time. If you’re in the mood for something quiet, slow, and whimsical, this book will be perfect for you.