Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Fiction 2019 / 270 pages


There is a 100-year-old cafe in a basement in Tokyo that has no windows, three clocks that tell different time, and is always cool, no matter how hot it becomes outside.  It is small, with just three tables.  But one chair, at one of the tables, is quite unusual.  If you sit in the chair and obey all the rules, you can travel back in time for a few moments.  One if the rules is, nothing you do when you travel back will change the present.  Another is, you must return to the present before your cup of coffee gets cold.

The premise is sweet.  The characters are the manager and workers in the cafe, and a few regulars.  We watch as four women take the opportunity to time travel, to learn something they otherwise would never know.  Different from some other time travel books, there is neither technology nor science.  It is all about the women who travel and the most important relationships in their lives.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is an odd book; an unusual book.  It is difficult to say what didn't work well for me.  It was over overly sentimental.  All four characters who time travel are women, and I found that somewhat sexist.  Are women the only people who care about relationships?  And Kawaguchi is extremely repetitive.  He repeats the rules, and explains about the clocks, and tells about the making of coffee over and over again.  Nevertheless, it is tender; it is redeemable.

I can't quite recommend this book, and I can't quite not recommend this book. In the end, I give it three hearts ... it may be worth perusing and reading a few pages to see if it appeals to you.

April 2023