RIYADH: “Before the Coffee Gets Cold,” published in 2015, is a time travel-themed novel written by famous Japanese playwright Toshikazu Kawaguchi and translated to English by Geoffrey Trousselot.
In the novel, four women wish to travel back in time for various reasons, whether to confront the man who left them, to receive a letter from a husband suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, to visit a loved one for the last time, or to see a daughter they were never able to meet.
A cafe located in a small back alley in Tokyo not only serves coffee to its customers but also offers a one-of-a-kind experience: a chance to go back in time.
The journey to the past, however, isn’t so easy. One must follow a set of rules to journey safely: The time traveler must sit in a particular seat, not leave the cafe, and return to the present before the coffee gets cold.
Each chapter in the novel is dedicated to a particular customer at the cafe, but the different customers also make appearances in each other’s stories throughout, and they support one another in their journeys.
The customers’ stories are rooted in difficult circumstances and filled with grief and misfortune, but while the cafe doesn’t offer the much sought-after second chance in life, it does provide something equally significant: closure.
The cafe’s customers confront and make amends for their losses, even though they are aware they won’t be able to change anything once the coffee gets cold and they return to the present.
“Before the Coffee Gets Cold” is a sad, sweet, yet hopeful novel. Kawaguchi conveys a powerful message through the stories of the four characters, emphasizing that while the past is unchangeable, the future is always within reach.
The book is the first part of a series, followed by three other books titled: “Tales from the Cafe” (2021), “Before Your Memory Fades” (2022), and “Before We Say Goodbye” (2023).