The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World
by Laura Imai Messina
Favorite books of mine include The Book of Dreams and The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan, and Everything Love Is by Claire King. One quality that these novels have in common is a deeper emotional resonance than is found in much fiction. To this list of my own treasured favorites, I am adding The Phone Booth at the End of the World. It is a unique and uniquely moving read.
The tsunami that swept Japan over a decade ago left much destruction in its wake. There was loss of property, community and the lives of those that many loved. Yui, the protagonist of this novel, lost her mother and daughter. She continues her work at a radio station but is broken inside.
Yui hears of a phone booth at a remote location in Japan. It is not connected but has become a kind of shrine. People go there to speak into the phone with the loved ones that they have lost. On her first trip to this pilgrimage site, Yui meets Takeshi. His wife died in the tsunami, leaving him with a beloved daughter who has been mute ever since. Yui and Takeshi become companions who visit the phone booth each month. They come to know each other well and to share in life, loss and healing. There are other characters who also have faced this incomprehensible loss, as for example, a high school student. They also take their places in the book.
This novel has a gorgeous design. Each chapter has a line drawing at its start. The reader might see birds in flight, an old fashioned telephone or a book for example. Short chapters alternate with even shorter chapters. The very short chapters are lists. A reader might learn what Yui’s favorite Bossa Nova music is or what her daughter was wearing on the day of the storm or what gifts Yui had bought for her but had not, as yet, given to her. These chapters add to the poignancy of the story.
I highly recommend this novel. It will engage you, make you think and, perhaps, inspire you.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this title. All opinions are my own.