Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold

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.

This is a cute novel that tells four heartwarming (and heartbreaking) stories of people who go back in time after a momentous life event. It’s a bit quirky, and I think that’s what makes it work. The stories of each time-traveler are all connected, and after their experiences in the coffee shop they tend to stay in touch with one another, if they weren’t already regular customers. 

The time-traveling aspect is not what you expect. For one thing, there are rules about going back in time. Obviously, the well-known one is to finish your coffee before it gets cold, or else. But the two I found interesting were that the person had to stay in their seat the entire time and they couldn’t change the past. After all, what’s the point in going back if you can’t change anything… right?

Well, this story proves that there is a point in going back, even if you can’t change it. In one story, a woman learns that even though her recent ex-boyfriend is moving to America, he’ll be back in a few years’ time, and maybe they’ll have a chance again in the future. Another woman is able to attain a letter that her husband wrote to her before his Alzheimer’s gets worse and learns his wishes for if and when he forgets who she is (which he does). Yet another woman finally reconnects with her sister, and another with her future daughter.

“The present hadn’t changed—but those two people had. Both Kohtake and Hirai returned to the present with a changed heart.”

Though at first I had a hard time keeping some of the characters straight in my mind as to who was who, once I got used to them I really found that I enjoyed these little connected tales. I absolutely loved the twist of being able to go back into the past, but not being able to change the outcome. You may not be able to change the past, but you can learn from it, and this novel really reflects that. This was a great way to bring that lesson home.

Overall, I loved this novel – t’s quirky, heartwarming, and a little tear-jerking. I 100% recommend it if you’re looking for something different to read.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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