Summary and book reviews of The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

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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About this Book

Book Summary

The international bestselling novel sold in 21 countries, about grief, mourning, and the joy of survival, inspired by a real phone booth in Japan with its disconnected "wind" phone, a place of pilgrimage and solace since the 2011 tsunami.

When Yui loses both her mother and her daughter in the tsunami, she begins to mark the passage of time from that date onward: Everything is relative to March 11, 2011, the day the tsunami tore Japan apart, and when grief took hold of her life. Yui struggles to continue on, alone with her pain.

Then, one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone booth 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 booth spreads, people travel to it from miles around.

Soon Yui makes her own pilgrimage to the phone booth, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Instead she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of her mother's death.

Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World is the signpost pointing to the healing that can come after.

Chapter 3



As she played around with the satnav, Yui tried desperately not to be sick.

The view of the sea had that effect on her for the first few minutes every time she saw it. As though, just by looking at it, the water would rush into her mouth, choking her. So she would quickly stuff something else in her mouth, a square of chocolate or a sweet, and within moments she would be used to the sight and the spasms would ease.

In the month following the tsunami, she had lived on a six-and-a-half-by-ten-foot sheet of canvas in an elementary-school gymnasium with 120 other people. And yet she would never again feel as lonely as she had in that place.

Despite the heavy snowfall, almost unheard of in March, she would go outside as often as she could. She would squeeze through a crack in the wall of the school playground and cling to a tree that seemed firmly rooted to the earth. From there she would contemplate the ocean, now back in its correct position, and the crater of rubble ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may 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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This book is beautifully written! It's easy for the reader to become immersed in the deep feelings and concerns of the many who made the journey to the phone booth (Susanna K). From the beginning I was touched by Laura Imai Messina's poetic manner of writing. She developed her characters in a delightful and loving way. I cared about each one and wanted the best for them. Yui's story is developed in many dimensions: physically, emotionally and spiritually (Mary Anne R). I was moved to tears on more than one occasion. I needed the reminder that after the storm, after the wind, after the loss, there is still room for love, room for hope (Ed R)...continued

Full Review Members Only (632 words).

(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Shelf Awareness
Thoughtful and tender, full of small daily moments and acts of kindness, Messina's novel is a testament to the power of community (and a bit of whimsy) in moving forward after loss.

The Times (London)
A story about the dogged survival of hope when all else is lost ... Messina shows us that even in the face of a terrible tragedy, such as an earthquake or a loss of a child, the small things - a cup of tea, a proffered hand - can offer a way ahead. Its meditative minimalism makes it a striking haiku of the human heart.

Stylist
Carefully told and with great care, this feels a particularly resonating story right now.

Cosmopolitan (UK)
This book is one to read now.

Heat
Spare and poetic, this beautiful book is both a small, quiet love story and a vast, expansive meditation on grieving and loss.

Bookbag (UK)
This is a beautiful book. And a timely one. It tells a story about the aftermath of a disaster, long after the disaster. It tells of memories of the first few weeks after horror struck, but more it tells about the years after. If we're not directly affected, we lose sight of the years after that others have to endure. Or survive.

Kirkus Reviews
A must-read…a beautifully written book…Messina writes in a way that’s evocative of Kazuo Ishiguro but in an opposite way: While Ishiguro leads with comfort and hints at the sadness to come, Messina offers grief and sadness first but offers the reader a trail of breadcrumbs toward future happiness

Author Blurb Christy Lefteri, bestselling author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo
This beautiful novel tells a story of universal loss and the power of love. It will remain engraved in my heart and mind forever. During these difficult times we face, it addresses questions that we might all have—how to connect with those we have loved and lost and how to allow ourselves to live and to love again. Beautifully written, sensitive and evocative, it paints a picture of an inner and outer world that is infused with both tragedy and hope. It moved me to tears and made me want to speak my own secret thoughts in the phone box at the edge of the world. Absolutely breathtaking and stunning.

Author Blurb Joanna Glen, author of The Other Half of Augusta Hope
Before I got started, I already loved the phone booth at the edge of the world. But then I loved everything else. Especially the beautiful prose, powerful but held back, like grief. And the characters—emerging blinking from their tragedies, hurt, and hesitant—but ultimately hopeful. It was a joy to read. Mesmerizing.

Author Blurb Clare Macintosh, New York Times bestselling author of I Let You Go and After the End
A message of hope for anyone lost, frightened, or grieving. Beautiful.

Reader Reviews

Cassandra W

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World
This is a beautiful meditation on life, love and loss. Read it, you won't be disappointed.
STM

Beautiful and consoling read
The cover and the title drew me in right away. However, I stayed for the story, writing, and inspiration. Beautifully written and evocatively plotted, this book uplifted and consoled me during this time of loss and worry. The writing is lyrical ...   Read More
toni b

The fragility of life helps to write your story
Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of "The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World" by Laura Imai Messina which is a fictional tale based on the real Wind phone in Japan. " ... life decays, countless cracks form over time. But it was ...   Read More
Antoinette B

your fragility determines your story
Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of "The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World" by Laura Imai Messina which is a fictional tale based on the real Wind phone in Japan. " ... life decays, countless cracks form over time. But it was ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Grieving Places

Glass phone booth with disconnected rotary phoneIn The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World, author Laura Imai Messina crafts a fictional story around a real-life place of public mourning, a phone booth, in the Japanese town of Otsuchi, located about three hours inland in northeastern Japan. A man named Itaru Sasaki built the glass booth with a rotary phone inside after the death of a cousin in 2010. He imagined he could use the phone to call his cousin and it became a means of coping with his grief. Not long after Sasaki's personal loss, tragedy struck on a grander scale when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan's northeast coast on March 11, 2011, killing over 15,000 people. In the aftermath, Sasaki opened his phone booth to the public as a place of grieving. It's estimated that ...

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