cover image Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Toshikazu Kawaguchi, trans. from the Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot. Hanover Square, , $19.99 ISBN 978-1-335-43099-1

Japanese playwright Kawaguchi’s evocative English-language debut is set in a tiny Tokyo café where time travel is possible. In four connected tales, lovers and family members take turns sitting in the chair that allows a person to travel back in time for only as long as it takes a single cup of coffee to cool. In “Husband and Wife,” a nurse goes back in time to visit her husband before his Alzheimer’s erased her from his memory; in “The Sisters,” a woman visits her younger sister, who died in an accident while trying to visit her, to apologize for not seeing her. Kawaguchi’s characters embark on lo-fi, emotional journeys unburdened by the technicalities often found in time travel fiction—notably, they are unable to change the present. The characters learn, though, that even though people don’t return to a changed present, they return “with a changed heart.” Kawaguchi’s tender look at the beauty of passing things, adapted from one of his plays, makes for an affecting, deeply immersive journey into the desire to hold onto the past. This wondrous tale will move readers. (Nov.)