The Phone Box at the End of the World by Laura Imai Messina @Tr4cyF3nt0n @bonnierbooks_uk

Posted March 14, 2021 by midnightreview in Reviews / 0 Comments

A sweeping, moving novel based on an incredible true story.

Picture an old disused telephone box in a beautiful garden, not found easily.

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in a 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 travel there from miles around.

Soon Yui makes 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 like it is breaking.

When you’ve lost everything – what can you find?

My Review

Going to be honest, I don’t even know where to begin. I knew from the outset that this wasn’t going to be the easiest book to read in terms of subject matter, but the way it is written is just hauntingly beautiful.

The book is based on a real place and a real event, however, the characters we follow and their stories are all fictional. Yui loses her mum and daughter in the tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. She hears about Bell Gardia, a phone box where people go to speak to those they have lost. Their voices carried on the wind.

On her first trip she meets Takeshi, a man who has lost his wife, leaving him to bring up their young daughter.

The story is almost told in memoire form from Yui’s point of view. We go back and forward in time learning more about them, their lives and their friendship. As well as others who visit the phone box.

I loved the way this book was written, after each chapter you learn a little extra, for example, songs they listened to on their journey to Bell Gardia, what Yui’s daughter was wearing the day she died, the book store she brought her books from. As I was reading this information it transformed these characters until I forgot they were not real people.  

Considering the subject matter, you would be forgiven for wondering whether this was a depressing read. It is far from it, I found it strangely uplifting. Yes, it is an exploration of loss but also of love. What it means to love again and how you heal after unimaginable loss.

I adored this book, that final line brought tears to my eyes, which is not something that ever happens to me. It was quite simply a beautiful story. I have fallen in love with Bell Gardia. This is one book that will stay with me for a very long time.

Author Info

Laura Imai Messina was born in Rome, Italy but has been living in Japan for the last 15 years. She works between Tokyo and Kamakura, where she lives with her Japanese husband and two children. She took a Master’s in Literature at the International Christian University of Tokyo and a PhD in Comparative Literature at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. The Phone Box at the Edge of the World has been sold in over 21 territories.
Laura can be found on Twitter at @LaImaiMessina and on Instagram at @LauraImaiMessina, or on her website www.lauraimaimessina.com.

Lucy Rand (Translator): Lucy Rand is a teacher, editor and translator from Norfolk, UK. She has been living in the countryside of Oita in south-west Japan for three years.

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