After I wiped away the tears from reading Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, I wished that there was a second book. I felt like I had been there as patrons walked into Funiculi Funiciula, the cafe at the centre of the book, travelled back in time, and came to peace with their pasts. From the story of one character going back to see the boyfriend who departed before they could say they did not want them to go, to the story of a wife who wanted to see their husband before he lost his memory, I was hooked.
Before the coffee gets cold: Tales from the cafe is a continuation of the stories from Funiculi Funicula. This book is set six years after the first book which means that there have been a few character changes. This timing, I feel, added a lot of dimension to the book, as I got to learn a bit more about Miki, Kei’s daughter. Miki was lively throughout the book, and eventually was allowed to serve the special coffee that allows one to travel back in time herself.
I am getting ahead of myself. This book, like the first one, tells the stories of four people who travel back in time. The same rules apply as those in the first book. Notably, you cannot change the past, no matter how hard you try, and you must drink the coffee before it gets cold.
All four of the people in this book were not deterred by the rules: they had clear motives to go into the past. One character, a detective, wanted to give their wife a birthday present and share a message he never got to utter. The story almost brought tears to my eyes. Another character wanted to see their mother before she passed away. That character did not even know their mother was ill until after she had died.
Throughout this book, I learned a lot about the cafe and its ownership. As the characters travelled back in time, I got to learn about Kazu’s mother, Kaname, and I saw how little the cafe had changed. The three clocks, two of which were not working, had not changed one bit even in the scenes from the past, like everything else: the sepia hue in the cafe, the fan on the ceiling. I was especially interested in the story of how the ghost who occupies the chair in which people travel back in time got into that position. I shall not spoil this part of the book.
I enjoy reading the backgrounds of each character. The first character, Gohtaro, had lost all of their money after co-signing a loan for a friend. On the streets, he came across someone he knew from the past who gave him the opportunity of a new life. Disaster later struck, and the character who lost their money ended up raising the child of the person who had given them a job and a new outlook on life. The aforementioned detective never gave their wife a birthday present because their wife had troubles on their birthday, a sad, but gripping, story.
Like the first book, Tales of the cafe was as much about the stories of people looking to travel back in time as much as it was about the people who worked in the cafe. Kazu lost her ability to pour the special coffee that sent people back into the past. The reason for this is mentioned later in the book. Kazu, like always, maintained her reputation for not being very expressive. The reason for this was, again, discovered later in the book.
Characters go to the cafe for a second chance or to see something they missed. Not being able to change the past is irrelevant in many cases. The detective, for instance, just wanted their wife to know that he was thinking of them. The day the detective gave her the present in the past, he was going to tell his wife that he was leaving the force because it caused him too much stress. He never got the chance to do this and going back to the past was his only option.
I’d recommend this book just as much as the first one. This is my second fiction read of the year after a long break from fiction works. After reading this book, I understand even more the rule about not being able to change the past. Characters use their one chance to visit the past to do something differently. For all the characters so far, they have come back to the present day with a new perspective. I’ve enjoyed each one of the eight stories from Funiculi Funicula, each one incredibly engaging.
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