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The phone box at the end of the world by Laura Imai Messina

I was inspired to transition The Phone Box at the Edge of the World from browsing to buying, by the intriguing title and by one of the cover reviews which was from Christy Lefteri, author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo, a stunning novel that gifted me an insight into the desperate plight of refugees. The cover quote simply says ‘breathtaking’ but the inside sleeve gives a fuller quote from Christy:

‘This beautiful novel tells a story of universal loss and the power of love. It will remain engraved in my heart and mind forever…Absolutely breathtaking and stunning.’

Inspired by a real place in the northeast of Japan, The Phone Box at the Edge of the World tells the story of Yui who lost her mother and her daughter in the tsunami of 2011. One day, she hears a story on the radio about a man who found solace after the loss of his wife, at The Wind Phone.

On a windy hill in Japan, in a garden overlooking the sea, stands a disused phone box where people come to pick up the disconnected receiver and speak, their messages carried on the wind to the loved ones they have lost.

Battling with her own grief, Yuri sets out on the long drive to the phone box at the end of the world to speak to her mother and daughter but when she gets there, she finds much more than she could have imagined, yet cannot find the words she so desperately needs to say.

Both heart breaking and uplifting, through Laura Imai’s lyrical and soft voice – translated to English from its original Italian by Lucy Rand – we meet the other people who travel to the phone box on the same days as Yuri. Gradually, we uncover the story of each loss, the reconciliation that they need in order to move forward with their lives, and the healing power of the phone box. Among them is Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose daughter has stopped talking in the wake of the loss of her mother.

What follows is a love story that encompasses Yuri and Takeshi’s blossoming relationship; Yuri’s growing love for Takeshi’s daughter, the inevitable memories of her own daughter that evokes and the emotions it brings with it; and for the reader, a tender insight into Japanese culture and the values that underpin its society.

I found the whole concept of the disconnected phone box compelling; the chance to speak to someone you’ve lost, to say all the things that were left unspoken and to feel that somehow, they will hear. The fact that there really is such a phone box where thousands of people travel every year to send their messages on the wind, just makes this novel all the more compelling.

It’s not for everyone. It’s not a page-turner or a suspense thriller and there are no clever twists or shocking denouements, it’s simply a story of coming to terms with loss and finding a way to love again. It’s one of those books that induces a long sigh as you close the back cover.


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