The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World

Quel che affidiamo al vento
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Harry N. Abrams
January 2020
Lucy Rand
August 1, 2022 August 5, 2022

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.

About the book

I’ve read a few things about the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and would like to read more, but I didn’t know anything about this phone booth. The book is about mourning, about people who can’t get over the death of a loved one. The phone mentioned is not connected with the afterlife, of course, but it gives a sense of completeness to whoever picks it up. Not everyone talks to their loved ones lost in the tsunami, as the writer herself tells us, she herself didn’t lose anyone in the Great East Japan Earthquake, so the cabin has become a destination for those people who have unfinished business and I find a good thing that it stays that way and doesn’t become a tourist destination.

What I think

I loved the book, I cried with the protagonists, I read their pain even between the lines and I’m really happy that there is this place. Also I really liked the author’s note, how she got to that phone and how she didn’t want to talk about the Fukushima disaster, because she’s right about that. When we talk about that earthquake we always think only of the nuclear disaster and as I have already said elsewhere, we never talk about the 18,500 or more people who have died or disappeared and their families who have to live with survivor syndrome. How many times have I read about the Tohoku earthquake in geography books and immediately they talk about Fukushima? By now we humans have become secondary to the environment, which for heaven’s sake it is right to preserve it otherwise we will soon become like Mars, but in some cases I find it more humane to talk about something else.

I recommend this book, it’s really well written and the style is particular.

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