Bonnier Books UK has announced a novel inspired by the true story of Japan's 2011 tsunami for its new literary imprint, Manilla Press.
The Phone Box at the End of the World, which has already sold foreign language rights into 17 territories, is about the pilgrimage of a bereaved Japanese woman to a telephone box for the dead in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami. It was inspired by a real phone box for the dead, that exists at the bottom of a garden in a small town in Northern Japan, Otsuchi, to which people travel from miles around to call those they have lost.
World English language rights were bought from Maria Cristina Guerra, agent at Grandi & Associati, by Sophie Orme, editorial director at Bonnier Books UK. Foreign language rights have already been sold into 17 territories.
The novel will publish on 25th June 2020 as one of the fiction launch titles of Bonnier Books UK’s new literary fiction and non-fiction imprint, Manilla Press.
In The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, Yui, a woman who has lost her mother and daughter in the tsunami and wonders how she will carry on.
The blurb reads: “Struggling to come to terms with her grief, she hears a story 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 travel there from miles around. Soon Yui makes a 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...”
The book’s author Laura Imai Messina lives in Japan with her Japanese husband and children. She said she had been “struck by the magic of a real, existing place, where people would pick up the receiver on an disused line to talk to their dead” after happening across the disused line that was inspiring many journeys in wake of the tsunami of 11th March 2011.
“Writing about these immediately after the tragedy felt wrong, like taking advantage. I waited, looking for the right story to tell,” she said. “I wanted to write about mourning, but also the relief and joy of survival, the feeling that we have to entrust parts of ourselves to the people we love and the courage we need to let those closest to us go. I wanted the story I told to be full of lightness and love ... I believe this story is for those who want to witness the transformation from before to after, for those who do not want their lives brought to a halt by the terrible things that happen to us, but want to keep opening themselves up to life’s opportunities.”
Orme said: “As soon as we heard about The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, we knew we had to publish it on our Manilla Press list. Originally flagged to us by our brilliant rights colleague Ilaria Tarasconi, there was a strong buzz around the novel at the Frankfurt Book Fair and we were thrilled to acquire world English language rights a few days later. This beautiful, affecting and compelling novel about grief, love and ultimately hope, will warm your heart, even as it feels as though it is breaking. It is set to become an international sensation, with 17 territories sold so far, and will be a major launch title for us in June 2020. Readers who loved The Beekeeper of Aleppo, The Reader on the 6.27 and The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul will love this very special novel.”