Reading guide for The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

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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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  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 416 pages


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Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

Inspired by a real phone booth in Japan with a disconnected "wind" phone where people go to talk to their lost loved ones, The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World tells the story of Yui's pilgrimage to the phone booth after losing her mother and daughter to the 2011 tsunami. The book explores Yui's grief and healing, as well as the loss shared by the people she encounters and connects with along the way. Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, this beautiful novel is the signpost pointing to the hope that can come after.

  1. What are some of the different ways the book portrays the relationship between parent and child? What does that relationship mean to Yui throughout the novel?
  2. Throughout the book, almost everything is permeated by a kind of duality, that happiness can come with fear, grief can come with beauty, etc. What are some dualities in the book that spoke to you and how do they dictate they ways in which the characters approach the world?
  3. How does wind define or enhance the most important moments in this story?
  4. Did you want to know more about Susuki-san? About his background, education, or experience that led him to install the phone?
  5. What does the man with the picture frame symbolize in the story?
  6. A professional writer who plans to title his upcoming book The Age of Immortality suggests that his son drowned because of "bad luck." How does luck enter or affect any character's life in this novel?
  7. How did you feel about the short chapters with lists and other details of daily life?
  8. Why do you think Yui couldn't bring herself to talk on the phone?
  9. What role does memory play in the book and what are some of the different perceptions of what it means to preserve things and people who have been lost?
  10. Yui thinks to herself about how she might have cut herself into two: the world of the living and the world of the dead. How does this separation play out over the course of the novel?
  11. How does the novel play with time? How does grief affect the way people perceive time in the book? Why do you think the author jumped from past to present to future in the book?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of The Overlook Press. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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