Monday 1 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Phone Box at the Edge of the World - Laura Imai Messina

We all have something to tell those we have lost . . .

On a windy hill in Japan, in a garden overlooking the sea stands a disused phone box. For years, people have travelled to visit the phone box, to pick up the receiver and speak into the wind: to pass their messages to loved ones no longer with us.

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she is plunged into despair and wonders how she will ever carry on. One day she hears of the phone box, and decides to make her own pilgrimage there, to speak once more to the people she loved the most. But when you have lost everything, the right words can be the hardest thing to find . . .

Then she meets 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 . . .

The Phone Box at the Edge of the World is an unforgettable story of the depths of grief, the lightness of love and the human longing to keep the people who are no longer with us close to our hearts.

What did I think?

What an incredibly moving book!  I didn't realise how much it had affected me until I was telling someone about it and I became quite emotional.  This book feels like two sides of the same coin as whilst it's predominantly about loss and grief, it's also about love and hope.  The writing is so beautiful that I highlighted several passages whilst I was reading so I could return to them and re-experience the beauty all over again. 

"Death, in this place, felt like a beautiful thing."

Yui and Takeshi are both grieving and they meet after making the journey to Bell Gardia in search of the wind phone.  Takeshi is comforted by talking on the phone to his wife whereas Yui is happy to sit peacefully in the garden.  Yui and Takeshi make monthly journeys to Bell Gardia where they come into contact with a variety of different characters.  I loved reading all the different stories that showed grief in its many forms and reminded us that everyone grieves differently.

"...everybody's grief looked the same at first but was, ultimately, unique."

The structure of the book is really interesting; there are alternating chapters listing or detailing seemingly mundane things which I found a bit odd at first, but it reminded me that it's the little things that often mean the most.  I used these chapters as an emotional anchor, giving me a chance to order my thoughts after reading some highly emotional stories.

"...when people disappear from our everyday lives, it doesn't mean they vanish completely."

Yui lost her mother and daughter in the devastating tsunami that hit Japan on 11 March 2011, killing more than 18,000 people.  Both the visual and emotional impact of the tsunami is explored in the book and I found it incredibly poignant.  The bodies of Yui's family were found and identified but there are so many more who still remain missing today and I just can't imagine how this must feel for their families.

"And if you didn't see them one last time, the grief had no end."

I find it quite amazing that the 'The Wind Phone' is a true story and throughout the book I was overcome with admiration for the man who welcomes strangers to his garden to use it; strangers who no doubt become friends.  It's such a lovely thing to do and proves that some people are completely selfless and genuinely kind; I'm sure there aren't many of us who would welcome thousands of strangers trampling through our garden.

"Perhaps it doesn't do any harm, she thought, to continue talking to those who are no longer with us."

Beautifully written and completely breathtaking, The Phone Box at the Edge of the World is a stunning novel and one I will return to again and again.  Unforgettable and extraordinary, it's a book that speaks to the heart and soul of anyone who has loved and lost.

Many thanks to Manilla Press for sending me an ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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