A single mother opens a café to support herself and her infant daughter, pouring heart and soul into its operation.
Sango Yamano is 21. She was born out of wedlock to a negligent mother and spent her middle-school years in a state of constant hunger. Forced to drop out of high school due to poverty, she found a job and began living on her own. At 20 she married her live-in boyfriend Yasushi and gave birth to a daughter, Yuki, but Yasushi remained a layabout and they soon divorced. The story begins when the once-again single Sango sees a sign saying “Will babysit” posted at the front of an old house. Since she needs childcare in order to go back to work, she stops to inquire and meets Kurara Yabuuchi, a 63-year-old woman. Though Kurara has no nursery license and says she has never babysat before, Sango decides to employ her services and returns to her job at the bakery where she’d worked before giving birth.
Kurara, who has spent some time in a convent overseas, turns out to be not only a great fount of everyday wisdom but an excellent cook. It helps that her nephew Takayuki runs an organic vegetable farm and is a source of high-quality fresh produce. When the owners of the bakery announce they are going to close shop and Sango faces the loss of her job, she decides she wants to open a café and deli dedicated to providing healthy food choices.
Despite being a high-school dropout with no formal training, no experience, and no savings, Sango gains the support of Kurara and other acquaintances and lands a bank loan to finance her new venture. Finding an old house surrounded by trees that’s away from the main business district but rents for a bargain, she names her café “Snow and Coral”?her daughter’s name means “snow” and her own name means “coral”?and opens for business on Yuki’s first birthday, March 30. She soon has a flourishing trade, thanks to a variety of ready-to-eat deli dishes prepared with the freshest of ingredients as well as a menu that accommodates people with food allergies. When Yasushi’s parents, and then Yasushi himself, appear at the café, Sango reflects on her own experiences as a child as she tries to decide what is best for her daughter.
In this refreshing tale that makes one think about the essential nature of work, of food, and of life as a whole, author Kaho Nashiki renders much more than a story about how goodwill can foster success, showing also Sango’s resourcefulness in drawing out the kindness of strangers.