Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

March 21, 2023

“Before the Coffee Gets Cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi caught my eye because several other libraries had requested it from us. This book has been translated from Japanese and is a total of 272 small pages. It got good reviews and the author has gone on to write two sequels. As I finished the book, I could see several little plotlines that could be explored further.

There is a tiny cafe in Japan where you can go back in time- for just as long as it takes for your coffee to get cold. You can’t change anything that happens, but it offers the coffee drinker a chance to make peace with their regrets. This process involves several rules and hurdles that make it impractical for many people to actually complete the process. 

I overheard a patron saying they had a hard time with the unfamiliar names, so when I started reading I made notes for each character. There are only nine characters in the book, so it isn’t much of a problem to do this, but I can see how the unfamiliar names could be confusing.

The translation is well done, I feel the culture of the book has been well preserved. Kira called this a slice-of-life book. It doesn’t have a lot of plot or character development, but you get to see a tiny window of how each of the characters tackle their regrets. For such a small book parts of it were really repetitive, but the author uses beautiful language:

“Water flows from high places to low places. That is the nature of gravity. Emotions also seem to act according to gravity. When in the presence of someone with whom you have a bond, and to whom you have entrusted your feelings, it is hard to lie and get away with it. The truth just wants to come flowing out. This is especially the case when you are trying to hide your sadness or vulnerability. It is much easier to conceal sadness from a stranger, or from someone you don’t trust.” 

“Before the Coffee Gets Cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is a literary novel that makes you consider regrets you might have and how a short conversation could change things. I would recommend this book to people who are interested in Japanese culture, or a chance to explore the connections people make in their day to day lives.

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