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January 4, 2024

Before We Say Goodbye by Toshikazu Kawaguchi ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

The regulars at CafĂ© Funiculi Funicula are well acquainted with the whimsical ability it grants them to take a trip into the past—as well as the strict rules involved, including that each traveler must return to the present in the time it takes for their coffee to get cold. 

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of translated fiction novel Before We Say Goodbye by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
November 2023; Hanover Square Press; 978-1335009111
audio, ebook, print (240 pages); translated fiction

I discovered this series back in 2020 with Before the Coffee Get Cold (read my review) and loved it so much and was excited when a sequel came out the following year, Tales from the Cafe (read my review). When I saw that a fourth book was coming out I realized I somehow missed the third book, Before Your Memory Fades. Thankfully, I was able to get a copy through the library.

While I highly recommend reading the whole series - they are such beautiful stories - it isn't really necessary. Particularly with Before We Say Goodbye. In the earlier books, there was always a focus on the people who ran the cafe or were regulars along with the person who wanted to go back in time. That wasn't the case with this book. 

Books 1, 2, and 4 are set in the Tokyo cafe, but the third book is set in a different town that also has a "magical" cafe. There were other things that made book 3 feel like it was out of sync with the other three. 

But all the things that I love about this series were there. I wonder if these are published as a serial in Japan as each chapter reads more like a stand-alone short story. Thematically the stories are connected - all the people who want to go back in time want to find closure, say "goodbye", to a loved one.

These are bittersweet stories. One of the rules of time travel in this cafe is you can't change the present. So even if you tell the person they will die in an earthquake, the person cannot escape their fate. However, what does change about the present is how the person who traveled back feels. Sometimes, it is just because they were able to share a piece of themselves that they always wished they had or get understanding about why their partner left them. There is definitely a lesson about regrets and perspective, but it is subtle. 

The subtle subtext is what makes these stories so beautiful. And while they might make you a little sad, they will also make you feel lighter in some way.

I thought perhaps this would be the last book in the series, but from Goodreads, I see that a fifth book came out in Japan last year. I will be keeping an eye out for the English translation.

Buy Before We Say Goodbye at Amazon

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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