‘The Phonebox at the Edge of the World’ – Laura Imai Messina

Scheduled for release in late June 2020, I’m grateful to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this beautifully written, evocative story exploring loss and how we come to accept it before publication.

One of our characters is Yui, a radio broadcaster who lost her mother and daughter in the recent tsunami. She seems emotionally stuck in the aftermath, not sure how to move on from such a loss. Like so many dealing with such unexpected loss, the emotions are complex.

Alongside Yui we have other characters. They are brought together by the existence of Bella Gardia, a remote garden curated by an elderly man, in which there is a disused telephone box. When people speak into the phone they are given the opportunity to talk to their loved ones, to have another moment with those no longer there. Through this opportunity, they begin to come to terms with their grief.

When Yui travels there she finds she does not need to speak into the receiver. For her, the process of visiting the garden and hearing the stories of others is enough. One of the people she meets is Takeshi, a man mourning the death of his wife and trying to work out how to help his daughter who has stopped speaking.

What follows is the tentative blossoming of a new relationship. It ends on a beautifully hopeful note, yet there’s a wistful tone to this that I think will remain with readers. I loved the fact that after reading the story I learned it is based on a real place, and right now that seems a lovely thing to be able to hold onto.