The Phone Box at the Edge of the World – Laura Imai Messina

Translated By: Lucy Rand
Published By: Manilla Press
Pages: 416
Date Released: 25/06/2020

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.

*****

*TRIGGER WARNING – Contains mention of illness, death and suicide*

I’m going to start this review by writing something very personal. Over the past 5 years, I have been through loss and grief of varying proportions. I have lost family members – my nan, my uncle, my dad – and I have lost friends – childhood friends, old friends, new friends. I have lost them through dementia, cancer, heart failure and, most sadly, their own hand. No matter how many people you have lost and in what way, things never get easier.

When I was a child, I often met with those who had passed, conversing with them, thinking nothing about how odd it might seem for a young girl to believe in ghosts. They didn’t frighten me. I still vividly recall my granddad sitting on the end of my bed when I was 8. We had a conversation. I don’t remember what about, but I doubt it would have been a very serious conversation.

Since then I believe I have seen other grandparents, other relatives and friends since they’ve passed. I know a lot of people will poo-poo this and say that ghosts don’t exist. I’m not saying they do. I’m just saying that I believe there are still ways of communicating with those who have left us.

Sadly, as I’ve got older, my ability to see them and speak to them has all but gone. I try to focus on them and reach out to them, but whether I can’t access them anymore or whether they are choosing not to come back, I don’t know. But not a day goes by without my wishing I had a way to speak to them.

I didn’t realise the telephone – known as The Wind Phone – in Japan was actually a real thing until I finished this book, and maybe one day I’ll visit it and get to hear from them again. But for now, I’ll stay in Messina’s world and remember…there is always joy somewhere in unhappiness.

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