HomeAll postsThe Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

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

A review by Emma Streeton

Set in Japan the story follows Yui and Takeshi, both of whom have lost people close to them. Yui’s mother and daughter died in the tsunami that hit the north of Japan in March 2011. Takeshi’s wife died, leaving his young daughter mute. Both find comfort in the ‘wind phone’ – a disused telephone in the garden of Belle Gardia where people go to talk to their departed loved ones. Together, Yui and Takeshi go on a journey through their own grief.

The phone box is really real

I was amazed to discover the phone box at the end of the world really exists. There is a phone box in a garden in Otsuchi, Japan. A place devastated by the tsunami of March 11th 2011. Here, connected to nothing, there is a black telephone that carries voices out into the wind. People travel from miles away to talk to those they have lost. As we see in the story, the phone box is a place of comfort, hope and healing. What a beautiful idea.

Heartbreaking yet optimistic

The Phone Box at the Edge of the World is a heartbreaking read but it is also full of optimism and joy. This is a book you will think about for a long time after you’ve finished it. A story of love, loss and grief. Beautifully written, this story takes the reader through a roller coaster of emotions. Each time I picked up this book I also found myself reaching for the tissues. It is a rare novel that can bring tears to my eyes but this one succeeded.

Grief and loss

Grief and loss is something none of us can avoid in life. This book shows that everyone’s experience of grief will be different and that is okay. It also highlights that looking for hope and happiness in the darkness is not something to be frowned upon.

Yui came to understand that there was always joy somewhere within unhappiness. That inside each of us we preserve the fingerprints of those who taught us how to love, how to be happy and unhappy in equal measure…

I think what people take from this book will be very personal depending on their own lives and experiences of grief and loss.

…each person would find a place where they could tend to their pain and heal their wounds. That place would be different for each one of them.

The verdict

Messina does a fabulous job developing the characters of Yui and Takeshi. They were so believable. I warmed to them both equally. They are characters that the reader will struggle not to invest emotion in. Yui’s fragility is heartbreaking. Witnessing her struggle to accept she is loved and to give love is a poignant marker in the story. It shows the difficulty of moving on and the guilt in doing so. I held my breath to see if Yui would decide to walk away from or towards happiness.

The Phone Box at the Edge of the World is a must read. It is Immensely moving and emotionally powerful. A novel of hope and consolation in the face of loss. Have your tissues at the ready.

Book details

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781786580405
Imprint: Manilla (Bonnier)
Released: July 2020
Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Category: Fiction & related items

the Phone Box At The Edge Of The World: a line drawing of a phone box is framed by sakura blossoms

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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