Before the coffee gets cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi

This book had been on my wishlist for such a long time, that I was excited to read it. I thought the premise of the story was really interesting, I love time travel as a concept. Not necessarily how you go back in time but more about what it can gift you, and how you would change things if such an opportunity arises. Then, the time-travel has rules of course one of which in this book is that you cannot change anything. This made me pause because isn’t that the best part of time travel?

The book in short
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 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 found this information here.

What did I think about the book?
It was interesting to see time travel within the ‘normal world’ it makes you think I suppose about what you would do if you could visit a coffee shop like this. It feels close enough to daydream about what it would be like in contrast to very fantasy-heavy stories that implement time travel.

At the end of the day just because you cannot change an event doesn’t mean that things did not change. It doesn’t mean it never mattered. How we perceive things changes how we go about life. Things can be a better experience, the outcome can be the same but the way we view that outcome can be changed immensely. The way we hold onto it can be completely different. It can give a sense of understanding and of growth or closer that changing the whole story would not.

It’s an interesting concept and because of the final chapter of the book and the revelations within I will not go too much into it. But it did leave me satisfied. Was it the time travel story I had hoped for? Not really but it was wonderful despite my wishes. I am unsure if I want to read the rest of the books that are part of the ‘series’ using it loosely as it’s more (even within the book) a collection of stories that are quite loosely connected. So, I am still unsure about the rest of the series. The writing was good but the stories of the people working at the cafe sometimes felt a bit redundant. I do look upon this book with fondness as I did enjoy reading it. But I think I’ll leave the story where it is.

Embarrassing as it is for me to say, I would have liked a cheat sheet with a list of how to pronounce the characters’ names. I felt so silly but when I was reading I didn’t know how to say some names. It felt wrong like you are not nice enough towards them because you haven’t learned their names right. Maybe it’s simply because in everyday life I am very aware of pronouncing people’s names correctly. I did like that the names weren’t translated that happens sometimes and it takes you out of the story. So I did like the fact that all the names were what the characters were supposed to be named. The story in itself was lovely when I came to the end. The ending made up for the rules I didn’t like very much.

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