Review: ‘Tales From the Cafe: Before the Coffee Gets Cold’ Toshikazu Kawaguchi

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time …

From the author of Before the Coffee Gets Cold comes Tales from the Cafe, a story of four new customers each of whom is hoping to take advantage of Cafe Funiculi Funicula’s time-travelling offer.

Among some faces that will be familiar to readers of Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s previous novel, we will be introduced to:

The man who goes back to see his best friend who died 22 years ago
The son who was unable to attend his own mother’s funeral
The man who travelled to see the girl who he could not marry
The old detective who never gave his wife that gift . . .

This beautiful, simple tale tells the story of people who must face up to their past, in order to move on with their lives. Kawaguchi once again invites the reader to ask themselves: what would you change if you could travel back in time?

Despite loving Before the Coffee Gets Cold, its sequel had been sitting on the shelf under my bedside table for about a year. When we read a book and fall head over heels in love with it, I think there can be a bit of hesitancy to read a sequel. When I heard that there was a sequel to Before the Coffee Gets Cold, my expectations were immediately sky high, but I tried to temper them with a dash of common sense. Barring a few exceptions, when has a sequel ever been better or even as good as its predecessor? This question had undoubtedly been lurking in my subconscious since I bought my copy of Tales From the Cafe: Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Every time I was looking for something new to read, I’d skip over its gold and white spine as I scanned my bookshelves, not wanting my love for Before the Coffee Gets Cold to be tainted by a lacklustre sequel.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I finally picked it up and I can safely say that I’ve never been so wrong in my assumption of a book. The plot is pretty much the same as the first book; people visit a cafe which plays host to a special chair that allows them to travel back (or forward) in time.

But despite the plot similarities, Tales From the Cafe is still imbued with the same charm and magic of Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Readers are introduced to a new cast of characters, but as with the first book, no two character backstories are the same. Each character has a tale to tell, a tale which fuels their desire to travel through time. Some tales are bittersweet, while others are achingly sad. Each character has experienced some kind of tragedy, but it’s by no means a ‘sad’ book. They all experience some kind of epiphany following their brief travels through time and these epiphanies generate a sense of hope for their futures. Tales From the Cafe is heartwarming and brimming with hope, and it has a crucial reminder at its core. Sadly, it’s extremely unlikely that any of us will be able to go back in time to tell passed on loved ones that we love and care for them. We will never get the same opportunity as Cafe Funiculi Funicula’s patrons, so Tales From the Cafe serves as a reminder to not put off what can be done today, even if it’s something as small and seemingly trivial as a quick “I love you” before ending a call with a family member. We might not get the opportunity tomorrow.

My only regret with reading Tales From the Cafe is that I didn’t read it sooner. I can’t recommend this book and its predecessor enough.

Want to read Tales From the Cafe? Head on over to Hive, Bookshop or World of Books to order your copy, or buy it through your local bookstore.

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