I picked up this novel simply because I was intrigued by the title. What’s going to happen after the coffee gets cold? What kind of tales can we expect? Somehow I’m always drawn to stories set in cafes and train stations – people come and go, but everyone has a story to tell. I hadn’t realised that this was actually the sequel novel to Before the Coffee Gets Cold, but even without reading the first novel, the sequel can be enjoyed very much on its own too.
A cafe that allows you to travel back / forward in time once, with a set of rules in place. Amongst them, there is a rule where you won’t be able to change anything in the past or future.
Why then, do people still want to travel back / forward in time, despite knowing that it’s a futile attempt? The novel teaches us a very valuable lesson, that even with the same outcome, there can be a very different way to which we approach the situation.
In face of loss, we are often overwhelmed by regret, anxiety, guilt and self-reproach that we forget how it is not what our loved ones would wish for us. We forgot that we are deserving of happiness and that it is what our loved ones would want us to be. The time travel may not have changed the events in time, but it definitely changed the lives of those who had made the attempt. My favourite quote in the story:
We can never truly see into the hearts of others. When people get lost in their own worries, they can be blind to the feelings of those most important to them.Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Tales from the Cafe
The novel is of the most poignant reads of the year so far and I love that despite not having a dramatic plot or climax, it manages to tug at our heartstrings with its simple prose. Sometimes I tend to shy away from Japanese dramas as I find that they tend to always end off each episode with a morale of the story that’s spelt out in our faces, but I like that the writing here in the four stories are a lot more subtle. It gives the reader space to think about it and form our own thoughts on what’s there to be learnt from each story.
Despite not having read the Japanese original, I do love the style of the translation by Geoffrey Trousselot. It reads smoothly, but I still feel the vibe that I do when I read a Japanese novel. It’s hard to describe, but I felt that the translator did a good job in retaining the quaintness, subtlety of the original. I feel that this is the appeal of translated fiction. It has to read smoothly for sure, but yet I don’t want to get the feeling that I’m reading an “English story” set in Japan with Japanese names or the characters.
All in all, a poignant read that makes me think about life and death and what it means for those who live on.