This review contains spoilers but most of it is already mentioned on the book’s blurb.
‘Before the coffee gets cold’ by Toshikazu Kawaguchi.
If you were allowed just one chance to go back in time what would you change, and more importantly, who would you want to meet?
In a hundred-year-old, basement café in Tokyo from the Edo time, there is a chair that can take you time travelling. But there are an array of tedious rules you need to follow which dims the café’s appeal as a tourist attraction. You need to be seated in a particular chair, you cannot leave that chair or the café, you can only meet someone who has been in the cafe before, and you need to come back before your (bitter) coffee gets cold. So far, so clear?
The plot plays out like a theatre play which was the author, Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s original intention. The set-up is like a low-cost stage and the actions of the characters a harmonious dance of pouring and drinking coffee, zipping in and out with a clang-dong of the front door and awkward dialogues and actions. A collection of four acts or stories unfold within this contained set-up.
Whether it’s Fumiko desperate to meet her lover who has just left her, Kohtake receiving a letter from her husband, Hirai trying to have one last meeting with her sister or Kei wanting to meet her future daughter every story pieces the puzzle of that chair together and slowly builds up to an emotional, teary climax with an ever-increasing crescendo. At the start of the novel, I had a sceptical eyebrow raised and by the last sentence, I am left reaching for the tissue box to wipe my tears away. The story is wise, poignant and yet has a heart-warming simplicity to it. The author’s style is fast-paced and matter of fact, so the emotional moments sneak up at you unexpectedly.
Get a good cup of coffee and start reading. This was a rare find but I’m so glad I stumbled on it in my local book shop. Oh, and read your chosen, marked parts before your coffee gets cold or you never know what might happen.