Wednesday, May 29, 2024
HomeCultureBooksBefore the Coffee Gets Cold

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Before the Coffee Gets Cold
Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Pan MacMillan, $19.99

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is one of a series of four novels by Japanese author Toshikazu Kawaguchi, whose previous work was as playwright, director and producer for theatrical group Sonic Snail.

The book centres on an idiosyncratic basement café in Tokyo where customers can time travel – provided they adhere to idiosyncratic rules. They can time travel, but nothing they do can change the present. This rule shocks many potential travelers; after all, if travelling back in time cannot help you fashion a better present, what’s the point?

In their travels, they can only encounter people who have been in the café. They can only sit in one particular seat while travelling – and they have to wait until the occupant makes her daily visit to the bathroom to grab that seat. Having been poured a cup of coffee, they must return before it’s cold.

This book is quirky – but that term falls short of describing how genuinely touching this short novel is. While it is not a demanding read, it has depth and soul. While its small cast of characters suffer heartbreak, they also find new insights from their visits back in time which help them heal.

The book focuses on four characters who visit the café and succeed in following the rules to time travel. Fumiko goes back a week and understands her boyfriend’s feelings of inferiority which led to a seeming rejection. Kohtake, nursing her husband Fusagi, who has dementia, changes her attitude after a visit to the past allows her to receive a heartfelt letter from him.

Hirai has avoided her sister despite the latter’s repeated letters, calls and visits. When her sister dies tragically on her way back from another fruitless attempt to see Hirai, a trip back in time helps her take steps toward reconciliation with her parents.

I found the last vignette, Mother and Child, the most touching. Kei, whose friendly and kind presence is a guide and inspiration to the café’s clients, dies soon after giving birth. The time travel rules are bent to allow her to travel forward, not backward, in time to meet her daughter Miki.

In the book’s final pages, Kei explains: “I finally understand. The present hadn’t changed, but those two people had. Both Kohtake and Hirai returned to the present with a changed heart … I was so absorbed in the things that I couldn’t change, I forgot the most important thing.”

Before the Coffee Gets Cold was adapted from a stage production. At times, it reads like a stage manager’s directions, which can seem awkward. The characters’ clothing is described in detail, as are their entrances and exits. All the action (such as it is – this is not an action-packed book!) takes place in the café, Funiculi, Funicula.

But this is a minor quibble in a book that delivers life lessons with charm and a light touch. I look forward to the other three novels in the series.

spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img

Seen on the Green

Gumeroy was born in Moree, near the Mehi River. He had a “typical country upbringing” which included hunting, fishing, and sports.

Redfern Community Centre – celebrating 20 years

REDFERN: The 20th anniversary of RCC was celebrated on April 20, 2024, with Councillors (Waskam) Emelda Davis and HY William Chan being joined by Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo for the cutting of the cake.

Native Foodways – ‘Baking is one part of what we do’

Native Foodways is a First Nations owned and led social enterprise partnering with people from communities across Australia.

Can the Waterloo South People and Place Plan deliver?

Homes NSW Portfolio (formerly LAHC) has placed its Draft People and Place Plan on its Waterloo South site for comment until the end of May.

Why we love our pets

We all know that pets play an important role in our lives and we love them for many reasons. They are companions, supporters, don’t judge us and are loyal.

Living with dementia – a carer’s journey: 4. Progression

A year after the dementia diagnosis, Stuart was reasonably stable, but his cognition and memory started to deteriorate. He wasn’t able to put the rubbish in the colour coded bins, flooded the bathroom by leaving the tap on, misplaced house keys.