In 1994, a film called Timecop came out that, for me, encapsulates the driving force behind time travel—changing the future by altering the past. When I picked up Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, I thought perhaps the author had something similar in mind. Go to the past, fix whatever is broken, and return to a better, brighter future. I was wrong.
In movies, it’s fun seeing complicated machinery that makes time travel possible. In books, not so much. This author uses a simple device—a chair. And more important than any special effects are the rules that bind the traveler. In a series of sad, funny, and touching tales, we are introduced to a collection of regulars who have been drinking coffee at this particular café for years. Each wants to fix a problem by going to the past. They want a second chance.
But here’s the twist. You can’t fix anything. You can only observe, and—while never leaving the chair—you can interact with whomever it was you went to see. Whatever you end up doing there, nothing in the future changes. So why go? If nothing will be different, then why put yourself through it?
Employing prose that is simple and powerful, the author shows us that what matters is understanding the people around us. And the gift we come away with is a feeling of joy for having understood.
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If you could go back, who would you want to meet?
In a small back alley of Tokyo, there is a café that has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. Local legend says that this shop offers something else besides coffee—the chance to travel back in time.
Over the course of one summer, four customers visit the café in the hopes of making that journey. But time travel isn’t so simple, and there are rules that must be followed. Most important, the trip can last only as long as it takes for the coffee to get cold.
Heartwarming, wistful, mysterious and delightfully quirky, Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s internationally bestselling novel explores the age-old question: What would you change if you could travel back in time?
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