Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café

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Title: Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café (original title: 在謊言拆穿之前)

Writer: Toshikazu Kawaguchi (translated by Geoffrey Trousselot)

Publishing House: Picador

Date of Publication: September 17th 2020 (first published April 27th 2018)

Rating: 5 stars

‘’That night…

Around the station there stood many Christmas trees, decorated with lights that shone and sparkled. The place was bustling with people, and Christmas songs played from all directions. The cafe, however, was located on a side street nestled among buildings some ten minutes’ walk from the station, Apart from a small wreath attached to the cafe’s sign, it was the same as any other day. The only light came from the mains street, making it very dark. Compared to the liveliness of the area around the station, it felt lonely.

 Fumiko stood waiting outside the ground-floor entrance. 

‘’Has it always been this dark?’’

Funiculi Funicula. No, this isn’t a cute little train in beautiful Napoli. It is a café, lost among the urban creations of Tokyo, well-hidden, a source of quiet in the buzzing metropolis. It is a vehicle, though. A vehicle to the past and the future. Just wait until the woman in the white dress leaves her sit. Kazu will pour the coffee. But remember! You can only meet someone who has visited the café. You cannot change the present. No matter what you do or say, everything remains as it is. And you must act quickly because your journey lasts until the coffee gets cold. If you don’t, you will become a ghost…

‘’There is nothing you can do while in the past that will change the present.’’

What if we wanted to say all the things we didn’t have the courage to say? What if we found the necessary strength when faced with pain and loss and regret? What if we discovered the moment when a single word could have changed everything? And why do we risk the journey when the present can’t be changed?

The Best Friend: A man who has raised his best friend’s daughter as his own travels to the past to inform him of her upcoming marriage.

Mother and Son: A young man wants to meet his deceased mother and tell her all the little secrets that have remained hidden.

The Lovers: A man travels to the future to meet the woman he loved but couldn’t marry.

The Married Couple: A detective travels to the past to give a birthday present to his wife.

Every story holds a secret that connects the characters and reveals the reason why Funiculi Funicula is unique. Every character is someone who could have been a beloved, a relative, a friend, a neighbour. The ingenious technique of repeating certain phrases gives the impression of a loop, a state that goes on and on for customers and owners alike. After all, the café has been around for 30 years.

I’ve always been intrigued by the figure of the ghost woman of the café. Here, we finally learn her story. We also discover the secrets of the journey. Who must pour the coffee, under what conditions, etc. Everything becomes even more tangible, humane, and poignant. And let me shout to the high Heavens that Kazu is a treasure! I adore her!

In the end, it is all about the need to express our feelings, the fear of being happy, the fact that, more often than not, we do NOT allow ourselves to be happy. It doesn’t matter that the present can’t be changed, there are words that should not be left unspoken and souls that must be unburdened…If this novel doesn’t bring you to tears, you need a heart and Jesus.

Now, can we have 300+ volumes more of the Tales from the Café, please and thank you?

‘’A ghost is sitting in the chair that returns you to the past.’’