Book Reviews

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

In Tokyo’s back alley there is a small cafe over one hundred years old. Not only does it offer a quality cup of coffee, legend has it that you can be trasported back in time within these walls.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we are introduced to four people seeking time travel. But the journey comes with risks: you must sit in a particular seat. You must not leave the cafe, and you must return to the present before the coffee gets cold…


I picture the cafe. I visualize the three clocks on the wall. I sense the cozy ambiance of the small shop. I feel the cushion of the seat that transports you back in time. I smell the freshly brewed cup of coffee that can’t get cold.

What a charming story; there is so much creativity and depth within the pages. Each story gripped me in a different way and I connected with each character. I so appreciated this unique idea brought to life in this book. It’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever read. 

Haven’t we all had a conversation that takes a wrong turn; one of you says the wrong thing, or doesn’t say the right thing and it all derails? Before the Coffee Gets Cold captures the devastation of these conversations that seem small in the moment, but can change your life.

“-no matter what difficulties people face, they will always have the strength to overcome them. It just takes heart. And if the chair can change someone’s heart, it clearly has a purpose.” (p. 272)

Broken into 4 parts, this book focuses on four different people who are in search of transportation in time to revisit a moment that occurred within the walls of this cafe. It reads like four stories that have connections and end up blending together like a well brewed cup of coffee.

The Lovers – Fumiko and Goro

Within the walls of the cafe, these two had an anger-filled and messy breakup. Ready for commitment, Fumiko hoped for a marriage proposal. Instead Goro was offered a career opportunity in America and intended to leave Fumiko behind. The two allowed frustration to overcome and split with nothing but hard feelings.

Desperate for a better ending, Fumiko traveled back to that very conversation and discovered truths she never knew.

Husband & Wife – Fusagi and Kohtake

Kohtake adores her husband Fusagi with the same passion she did when the two were young and writing love letters. But to him, Kohtake is a stranger. Fusagi has alzheimers and has forgotten who she is. Kohtake longs for the day when he knew her. Fusagi has long gripped an envelope addressed to Kohtake but to him, he can’t recall who this was intended for. 

In search of one last love letter, Kohtake ventures to the seat in the cafe to a day when her husband remembers her and to get her hands on that letter.

The Sisters – Hirai and Kumi

In a falling out with her parents, Hirai leaves her sister Kumi in the dust, constantly avoiding her. Hirai felt the pressure of taking over her family’s inn and didn’t want to abandon her own dreams. Now, it was Kumi who would inherit the inn and all its responsibilities. Despite Kumi’s constant kindness, Hirai is bitter and cold to her sister.

Hirai travels back to have a conversation with her sister before it’s too late.

The Mother and Child – Kei and Miki

Instead of traveling to the past, Kei knows her future is uncertain and travels ten years forward. With an emotional and difficult reality, Kei copes with what will come next for herself and her daughter Miki.

“The present hadn’t changed — but the people did.”

Ultimately, I adored this book. Before the Coffee Gets Cold is well-written; it has a creative concept that is so well executed. It is going directly onto my favorites shelf. I’m going to be thinking about what is between these pages for a long long time. This was easily a five star read and will make the list for best books of 2020 and possibly even one of my favorite books ever. I can’t describe how badly I want you to read this book!!

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Picador; September 19th, 2019; 9781529029581; Fiction/Fantasy