I bought the novel from the Better Read Than Dead bookshop in Newtown. Before The Coffee Gets Cold seemed an interesting title for a novel about time travel – and because I’m working on a science fictional novel featuring time travel, I was intrigued.
I do not regret the purchase. Obviously, Before The Coffee Gets Cold is not about time travel. It is a poignant work about the little moments of courage that can completely alter the trajectories of peoples’ lives and learning that if you do not show courage in those moments, the moment is gone, and you can’t alter your life, even if you could travel back to that moment.
This novel, to my understanding, has been adopted from a play, Kawaguchi’s main form. I think that that and the fact that it is a translated work from Japanese makes the writing style different to what I would normally expect. Nevertheless, the writing style and wording – quirky, witty, subtle and slightly claustrophobic, mimics the environment in the strange cafe that allows people to travel through time under stringent rules.
The novel has 4 subplots running congruent to each other, which eventually merge. The 4 subplots revolve around:
- Fumiko’s coming to terms with her inability to be vulnerable with her partner, who leaver her to relocate to the U.S
- Fusagi’s and Kohtake’s struggles with Fusagi’s alzheimers and his forgetting that Kohtake is his wife
- Hirai’s tumultuous relationship with her family and sister – a result of her free spiritedness, or so she thinks
- Kei’s heart condition and her struggle with pregnancy
As the events of the novel unfold, the characters begin to show us parts of themselves that they’d usually hide, uncovering a raw and relatable humanness and vulnerability. When I first started reading Before The Coffee Gets Cold, I didn’t love it immediately. I stared loving it towards the end of the first chapter, and I think it may the best book I’ve read this year. It is the first work that sticks me as displaying the gravity and urgency in fleeting moments, mundane everyday activities and conversations that we might dismiss as unimportant. It teaches us that it is in fact in these moments, that raw vulnerability, love and connection are found.