Excerpt from The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World

A Novel

by Laura Imai Messina

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai  Messina X
The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai  Messina
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2021, 416 pages

    Oct 2022, 416 pages


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Print Excerpt

From the high ground that skirted the town, where she had run to that day after the first quake, Yui watched the ocean advance. It was slow, silent, and bold, as if its destination was inevitable. What did the sea do, if not wash in and out again?

She was far from home, and her mother's message saying that she and Yui's daughter were nearly at their local shelter had been so reassuring that Yui had simply followed the people around her. She helped an old woman who was struggling to walk, she made herself as useful as possible, convinced as she was, deep down, that she was a survivor. For a moment she had even felt guilty for her good fortune.

Arriving at the open space on the mountainside they all looked out, as though on a balcony at the theater. They held their phones in their hands, enlivened by an excessive faith in technology. They had looked like children again, back at the age when there was no difference between fear and excitement. But when the sea struck the land, and didn't stop until it reached the base of the mountain, there was only silence.

The scene was so surreal that, for a long time, Yui couldn't be certain of what she had witnessed.

The tsunami rose much higher than predicted, so much so that, in some cases, the term "shelter" became a broken formula, a misspelled word; an imprecise definition that creates an equivalence between two things that are, in reality, nothing alike. That's what happened to her daughter and her mother, who, when they got to the shelter, found only death awaiting them.

Yui would wait on that sheet of six and a half by ten feet for a month, forgetting, at a certain point, what she was waiting for. The few objects she'd had with her at the time of the earthquake lay around her like a garland. Added to them were bottles of water, towels, cups of freeze-dried ramen, onigiri, cereal bars, sanitary pads, and energy drinks. Surrounded by these things that were getting older and older, she waited for it all to be over.

Eventually, the bodies were found and Yui stopped looking at the sea.

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Excerpted from the new book The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina published by The Overlook Press © 2021

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