cover image The Full Moon Coffee Shop

The Full Moon Coffee Shop

Mai Mochizuki, trans. from the Japanese by Jesse Kirkwood. Ballantine, $23 (230p) ISBN 978-0-593-72682-2

Mochizuki dazzles in her beautifully crafted contemporary fantasy debut. Washed up television writer Mizuki Serikawa now pens scripts for supporting characters in a video game dating sim but she’s hoping her last ditch pitch to director Akari Nakayama will result in a better gig. After Akari lets her know the production company’s executives have passed, Mizuki is totally adrift—until two odd-looking strangers invite her to “The Full Moon Coffee Shop.” This turns out to be a very unusual cat café staffed by feline astrologers who pick out celestial desserts like Lunar Chocolate Fondant, Planetary Affogato, and Astral Syrup to aid their customers in their quests for self-knowledge. The coffee shop appears to several other Kyoto residents facing unexpected troubles in their personal and professional lives: director Akari, who’s struggling against an unexpected attraction; actor Satsuki Ayukawa, whose career tanked after her affair with a married costar; hairdresser Megumi Hayakawa, who isn’t satisfied in what she thought was her dream career; and IT startup founder Takashi Mizumoto, who is plagued with inexplicable tech trouble. The stories of all five characters subtly but cleverly intersect, pointing to an act of kindness in their pasts that gets mystically mirrored back to them in the present. Just as sweet and satisfying as the scrumptious desserts served at the eponymous café, this gentle fantasy is not to be missed. (Aug.)