Inspired by a real telephone box located in the north-east of Japan comes The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina, a novel about Yui, a woman who lost her mother and daughter in the 2011 tsunami and is forced to navigate her grief as well as the life that lies ahead. A radio host, Yui first heard about the wind phone when she was moderating a discussion on grief. A caller, who had also lost a loved one in the 2011 tsunami, described the phone box with a phone doesn’t work; there’s no connection but the caller says that “your voice is carried away with the wind” Yui is intrigued and makes the drive from Tokyo.
The writing style is different to normal English writers. First written in Italian and published as Quel che affidiamo al vento, the English translation was done by Lucy Rand. Rand’s translation is fluent and seamless; she captures the lyricism and meditative quality of the writing with care. Longer chapters are punctuated by shorter ones, some written as lists (“Ten things plus one that Hana and Akiko loved doing together”), others as fragments, a single word, or an in-depth look and what had otherwise seemed like a secondary observation. These ultimately add to the experience: revealing a relationship through quieter moments, serving as a break in the tension or offering a different lens to reflect upon the previous chapter.
There is a stillness and quietness to the book that makes each movement all the more meaningful. The words carry a weight that makes each sentence feel intentional; there’s no fat to trim. Moving and heart-breaking, Yui’s story, and that of the Wind Phone, is equally uplifting and heart-warming.