What we are reading: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi


Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is a fantasy novel that explores how a person could use time travel to change their lives.

You meet four characters, each with their own sentimental longings, regrets, curiosities and needs who visit an ancient café in the heart of Tokyo which has become famous for its ability to transfer customers back in time.

The only issue is that there are stringent rules dictating a trip back; you can only sit in one special chair, you mustn’t get up from it, you must accept that you cannot change the present, and there is a time limit, in that you must drink the coffee before it gets cold lest you risk turning into a ghost who may never leave the tiny café.

It’s a sweet premise and an idea that many of us have wished for, to go back and make amends or see someone one last time.

It’s unfortunate that a lot of nuance of the story perhaps got lost in translation and the result are a campy, often times clunky set of passages that are doomed to repeat.
While this can become frustrating, it’s testament to the thrilling idea the book circulates on that a patient reader will do their best to ignore the juvenile phrasing just to see what happens in the end.

The real gift of this novel is how it lets the reader ruminate on their own choices and spurs the imagination, leaving you dreaming of all the things you would do if such a thing really existed.
The mysticism of Japanese magic realism paired perfectly your own imaginings, allows you to escape your train ride, work break or noisy café and opens the door on a world of wild opportunities.