Dear Phone Box at the Edge of the World,
You were so refreshing, and definitely not as sad as I had anticipated. I find I left our time together seeing the beauty around me and feeling somehow lightened. Thank you for sharing a simple and uplifting story.
P.S. Book Details
Author: Laura Imai Messina
Book Length: 400 pages
Book Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: June 25, 2020
Synopsis: We all have something to tell those we have lost . . .
When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue.
Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone box spreads, people will travel there from miles around.
Soon Yui will make her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss.
What happens next will warm your heart, even when it feels as though it is breaking.
The synopsis had me preparing for an intense book of emotions. However, I found this book broke all expectations and was a lighthearted book. In the back of the book there is a discussion guide for book clubs, and one question was, “Was this a love story?”. I found this interesting, because there was love in the story, but it wasn’t a love story in the way I would normally conceptualize it. It was more… it was a deeper love than instant attraction, it was becoming a family, grieving the loss of loved ones, finding meaning in the everyday, connecting to the world. The one word summary of “The Phone Box at the Edge of the World” that keeps coming to my mind is, beautiful. Messina highlights the beauty in the world, amidst the pain.
The phone box discussed in the book is an actual location in Japan with a unique focus. You can find a video here to see the actual location: “In 2011, a devastating tsunami tore Japan apart. In its wake, on the outskirts of Otsuchi, came the Wind Phone: a rotary phone that serves as a gathering place for people to recall loved ones lost. To this day, it is a site of pilgrimage for many seeking to deal with the grief of the absence of a loved one.” In search of this phone box, Yui and Takeshi meet and the story begins to unfold.
The setting was incredible. I do remember the 2011 tsunami in Japan, but I wasn’t as aware of the world events as I am now. Messina showed the aftermath and generational consequences of the natural event, primarily through Yui. I enjoyed “traveling” to Japan and learning more about the culture through Yui and Takeshi. As a reader, we had the opportunity to jump into their everyday life. There are many mundane events, but the pace is still easy to go along with, and not too slow.
All the relationships in the book are so precious and sweet. Yui, Takeshi, and Hana are all finding hope in grief. In addition to the people in the relationships, another element which made me enjoy Messina’s writing is her ability to balance falling part and coming together simultaneously within the nature of the relationships. Yui and Takeshi are so respectful of one another, honoring the other’s boundaries and pursuing one another’s heart.
I think this book is worth experiencing, rather than simply reading my review. I highly recommend this book to any and all readers. I think this book would be great to do with a book club, it feels relevant beyond grief, but also living a full life.