This emotional book follows the story of a woman called Yui whose life is torn apart by a natural disaster, but it also features grief in many other forms as well & touches on a variety of experiences. It’s a sad book, but in a subtle way, & the writer has done an incredible job of slowly reintroducing hope into Yui’s life, & to the reader. This story is incredibly touching & the way it’s been put together is truly beautiful.
I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in return for an honest review.
⚠️ Detailed descriptions of the loss & destruction left behind by a tsunami, as well as other catastrophes, including the deaths of parents, children & other family members, with hints of PTSD & other trauma/mental health conditions ⚠️
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.
Going into this novel I thought I would cry my heart out, & the opening was incredibly emotional, however, the book didn’t actually end up being quite as upsetting as I had expected… Despite this, the way the story is told makes you feel like you’re reading a biography, which obviously increases the emotions the story creates within the reader, even if it wasn’t quite the heartbreaking sadness I had anticipated. One of the things that did induce a lot of emotion in me was the fact that Yui’s story isn’t told in chronological order – instead it’s muddled & it genuinely felt like someone was telling me about their life because when people tell you about something they’ve experienced, they don’t talk about things in the right order, instead they jump along the timeline, go off topic, & then return to telling the story, & Laura Imai Messina managed to recreate this perfectly.
As the story developed, it started to include other characters with different stories & other forms of grief, showing how every person reacts differently to the things that they go through, & that grief isn’t just about loss or death. As different stories & characters were introduced alongside Yui, it slowly morphed from feeling like Yui was personally telling me her own story, to it feeling like I was watching her repair her life, watching her find happiness again, & I loved that. It was such an interesting way to experience a book of this kind, & it’s a really clever way to get the reader invested in Yui’s life & her journey. The writing style of The Phone Box at the Edge of the World is really hard to describe though because, as I’ve said, it wasn’t as sad as I expected. When talking about the past & specifically the tsunami, the writing sometimes felt more matter-of-fact, but not in a cold or detached way – it was more like Yui had accepted what had happened to her & her family, & that it was almost okay. This clever form of storytelling made me feel so much & left me deep in thought about how people recount, & remember, their traumatic experiences.
Something that actually really surprised me whilst reading was how much hope there is weaved throughout the novel, as I didn’t really envisage feeling positive whilst reading about people’s grief. The story is incredibly sad in places but not in an overwhelming way & ultimately it’s about healing & starting again after experiencing something horrific. The hope in the story kind of creeps up on you, so how you’re feeling whilst you read changes gradually, without you necessarily realising, which is very much like how Yui’s life progresses in the book. Yui’s happiness isn’t caused by one single event, instead it grows slowly, with a lot of ups & downs along the way, until one day her life is ‘back on track’ & she’s learnt how to live with her loss. My single complaint about the book is that I found the ending a little sudden; it went from a lot of detail about how Yui was feeling about her future, & then it suddenly jumped to the future, & it just felt a little disjointed & rushed, & that was a real shame.
Nevertheless, this is a stunning & gripping read, but not necessarily an upsetting one all the way through; it explores so many different kinds of grief & I found all the different people who travelled to the disused phone box at the edge of the world (which is real & is something I should have probably talked about more) incredibly interesting. The story told felt real, as did the characters & their grief, & Laura Imai Messina is an incredible storyteller, & Lucy Rand has done a fantastic job of translating all the emotions in the book into English. You can order a copy of this beautiful book using one of the links below:
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Book Depository | Hive | Waterstones
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