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November 17, 2020

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi ~ a Review

by Donna Huber


'Oh gosh, is that the time? Sorry, I have to go,' the man mumbled evasively, as he stood up and reached for his bag.
'Eh?' the woman said.
She glared with uncertainty. She hadn't heard him say it was over. But he had called her - his girlfriend of three years - to come out for a serious conversation...and now he had suddenly announced he was going to work in America. He was to leave immediately - in a few hours. Even without hearing those words, she knew now that the serious conversation was about breaking up. She knew now it was a mistake to have thought - to have hoped - that the serious conversation might have included 'Will you marry me?' for example. (p. 1)
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold
November 2020; Hanover Square Press; 978-1335430991
ebook, print (272 pages); Japanese fiction
A few years ago I decided to try to read more international authors. I've always read a lot of British authors but I was sure I was missing quality stories by not reading more broadly. To read more international authors meant that I would likely have to read translated literature as I only know one language. It has been a hit or miss kind of ride so I'm always a little apprehensive. I really liked the sound of Before the Coffee Gets Cold and looked forward to reading it.

While I have read another Japanese author, Before the Coffee Gets Cold is the first book I've read translated from Japanese. The story was very minimalistic, but there was a beauty in its simplicity.

The whole story takes place inside a basement cafe. There are no windows so you never know if it is day or night. It is also a small cafe - it only seats 9. The cast of characters is small: there's the husband and wife and their cousin - they run the cafe; there are 2 other women who are regulars - one runs a hostess bar and the other is a nurse; the nurse is also the wife of another regular customer - a man who suffers from dementia; and finally there is the woman in the white dress who sits in a chair reading. 

This isn't an ordinary cafe; there's an urban legend attached to it. There is one chair that will allow the person sitting in it to time travel. There are a bunch of rules - like nothing will change the present. The most important rule is to drink the coffee before it gets cold.

Each chapter features a different time traveler and while the focus is mainly on that character, there are other plot threads swirling around. I loved how Kawaguchi wove together the threads in the end.

The book is short and the language is simple - making it a quick read; I read it in two days. Yet the theme is quite profound and the characters will haunt me for a while. It was just so beautiful.


Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour


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4 comments:

  1. This sounds so interesting. I am attracted to good, translated works,
    Here is my pick: https://bibliophilebythesea.blogspot.com/2020/11/troubles-in-paradise-elin-hilderbrand.html

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  2. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this novel--I have a copy that I hope to read sometime soon.

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  3. This really sounds good. I'll have to check it out.

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  4. oh this one sounds good! I'll have to check it out, I love Fredrik Backman and read all of his stories translated to English and I just love his writing and the style of it. It's great to hop out of your comfort zone sometimes!

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