Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Imagine, you can go back in time. You can see a loved one you miss, and you have a chance to say the words you didn’t have the courage to say before. Or you can say the words you didn’t get to say before because you thought you’d have all the time in the world. This is what the cafe featured in Before the Coffee Gets Cold promises for their patrons, if only with a few rules. These are the main ones:

1. You cannot meet anyone who hasn’t visited the cafe.

2. You are not able to change the present at all, even if you wish for it.

3. You are on very limited time. You must finish your coffee before it gets cold.

Now, why would anyone want to go back to the past with these silly rules in place, especially Rule #2? Isn’t the whole point of time travel meant to be that you can change the present and the circumstances you are currently in. I mean, that’s the way it’s been portrayed in books and television and movies that feature time travel for years. So much of our hopes for time traveling, is that if we can travel to the past, sometimes even just a simple act could change the course of the present and subsequently, the future.

Especially if we’ve lost someone. We want to go back and maybe have the chance to save them. We want the chance to be able to bring them back to our present where they have disappeared.

“I was so absorbed in the things that I couldn’t change, I forgot the most important thing.”

Though the story features the premise of time traveling, the book isn’t about the actual time travel. It’s about the relationships we form, how we move forward when we’ve lost someone and how we can change how we live because we have or had certain people in our lives.

So, I actually enjoyed the fact that you couldn’t change the present in this book. I feel like it creates a story that focuses on the emotions and the relationship between the time traveler and the person they want to meet. The four patrons that did travel back were filled with such regret because of words left unsaid that for them it was okay if the present wasn’t able to change. Instead, they were able to gain a new understanding and awareness of the people who had left their lives. I loved that. Maybe because I enjoy a very character driven story, especially ones that focus on our connections to other people.

“It is much easier to conceal sadness from a stranger, or from someone you don’t trust.”

Now, I don’t generally comment on or criticize the writing style in translated novels. This is because I’m sure there are many intricacies within the original language that just cannot be properly translated without sounding awkward so some things are inevitably lost to readers of translated works. And also, in a sense I’d be criticizing the translator’s writing as well. They’re the ones that choose the words and phrases that would best work for the international readers and create a similar feeling in the translated language. But, with all that said, I did enjoy the simpleness to the writing in this book. It made reading the book a breeze. I’ve also read this was originally a play, and it makes sense when you’re reading through it.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy that will be translated and released in the upcoming years.


Rating: 4 out of 5.