The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World

Author: Laura Imai Messina
(Translated from Italian by Lucy Rand)
Year Published: 2021
Genre: Literary fiction, Poetic novels

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World is a book that has helped me get back into the habit of reading. What I particularly like about this book is how beautifully written it is. There were multiple clever, well-constructed phrases and idioms that made me re-read sentences and paragraphs, simply out of admiration for the profound nature of the author’s use of language.

This book provides insights about the lives of those in disaster-prone areas and of those affected by natural disasters and their repercussions, especially loss.

The story is centered around a non-fictional garden in Kujira-yama, Japan. The garden is home to a telephone booth known as The Wind Phone. People visit the telephone booth when they are dealing with grief, as they believe they can speak to their deceased loved ones, which can provide some form of closure.

While the visitors don’t actually receive any reply from the other end, it serves as a metaphor. The story tells us to accept death, as slowly as we can  embrace the bitter-sweetness of our existence, for it is important to hold onto pain as much as we hold onto joy, because everything is temporary, the good and the bad.

The protagonist, Yui, visits the garden as often as she can and forms invaluable, lifelong bonds with the people she meets there, due to their similar experiences with mourning. The trajectory of her life takes a few turns as the events surrounding the telephone booth unfold, but she eventually comes to the realization that every loss in life is made up for with something equally worthy or better.

That being said, here are some new English words you may come across while reading this book.

1. Lucid: clear and easy to understand.
2. Timbre: the quality of something’s sound.
3. Custodian: the person officially in charge of something, usually a place.
4. Grotesque: unpleasant and disappointing.
5. Cadaver: a dead body.
6. Crux: the most important or difficult part of an argument.
7. Paradigm: a clear, typical example or model of something.
8. Surrealism: combining ideas or objects in a strange way through art or literature.
9. Conviction: confidence in one’s beliefs and opinions.
10. Bemusement: a feeling of confusion.

Reviewed by: Thyba Fahry, Hillwood College, Kandy.

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