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


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

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue.

Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box 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 box spreads, people will travel there from miles around.

Soon Yui will make her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds 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.

My review

The Phonebox at the Edge of the World is a beautiful story. It is a story of Yui who lost her mother and daughter in the tsunami of 11 March 2011. Yui hears of a man who has set up a phonebox where the tsunami hit, right at the foot of Kujira-Yama. This phonebox is a place where people come to speak with their loved ones who have passed away, some like Yui who lost loved ones in the tsunami and others who come to connect with their loved ones who have passed away from different circumstances. Yui meets Takeshi when she goes to the phonebox and they become friends. Takeshi is heartbroken, having lost his wife and his daughter stopped speaking after losing her mum. Yui and Takeshi’s friendship is beautiful. They are both grieving, yet find connection in one another’s company.

The grief and loss experienced by the characters is heartbreaking to read. I cried a lot in this book. I cried for the characters, who although fictional, are real in so many ways. The tsunami took away mothers, children and spouses… people lost their loved ones and thinking of the pain they must have felt and still feel breaks my heart. I remember ringing friends in Japan at the time, worrying for their safety. I will never forget the footage of the tsunami and personal stories I watched and shared with my students.

This story also hit me very hard as Yui talks of losing her mum. Like her mum, my mum’s loss was sudden and unexpected. There was no chance to say what I wanted to say… This phonebox is of comfort for so many! What a life changing place. A place where people can connect with their loved ones. Fortunately, I feel that I can in ways reach my mum through prayer. My heart is broken, although I have hope, happiness and love in my life. Yui and Takeshi’s story is heartwarming. This book is a must read.

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