Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Tashikazu Kawaguchi

Goodreads | Waterstones

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 . . .

I’ve wanted to read Before the Coffee Gets Cold for a very long time, and I recently finally picked it up (on audio, of course…). I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about this book, but it is a beautiful story of wanting to spend every last second with a person, even if you know going back in time isn’t going to change the present, or future.

This book (and I believe, the one that comes afterwards) reads almost like short story collections, following a set of characters as they visit a cafe where they can go back in time, with some (many) restrictions. I loved how this book played with an idea I think about a lot – that people all around us have lives just as complex as our own. We see a number of different characters with completely opposing narratives, but they all face different struggles, and have different loves.

She wanted to do things without having to worry what others thought.

I read this one on audio and I really liked the narration. The book itself isn’t very long and each chapter of the story was told as one continuous audio chapter of around an hour each – perfect for a long run or car journey. I liked the opportunity to have these snippets of somebody’s life in one go, and be able to fully absorb myself into their story.

These characters are ever so slightly intertwined, but are merely mentioned in one another’s perspectives – leaving the full attention on them and their story. The focus on each character left me so invested in each story that I found myself feeling quite emotional as I discovered certain aspects of their life, or left them at the end of the chapter.

She simply lived for her freedom.

I can see why this book might not be for everybody, as it does have a balance of magical realism I haven’t seen before, and could sometimes become confusing with many different characters. I do also wish we could have re-visited the characters at the end of the book, as some of the endings felt quite abrupt. But overall, I really loved these stories and I will definitely be reading the second book.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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