A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place in this delightful new queer love story from TJ Klune, author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller The House in the Cerulean Sea.
Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.
When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.
And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.
But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.
Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
ISBN 9781250217349, 1250217342
Heartwarming…this word has become a commonplace in commercial fiction reviews, but never have I felt this description has been more accurate than in talking about Under the Whispering Door. If you loved The House at the Cerulean Sea and are worried it isn’t going to live up to your high expectations, rest assured T.J.Klune’s trademark writing style is as beautiful as ever. If this is your first book by this amazing author, welcome to his world of quirky characters, original storylines, tender moments, drama and optimism.
This time T.J.Klune tackles the topic that rarely gets discussed, although it is the only certainty in our lives- we are all born and we all die, and sooner or later we all have to face this inevitaility and come to terms with it. The protagonist of the book Wallace Price may have a bit of a problem accepting the fact that he died of a heart attack in his office at the ripe age of forty. His funeral is a sad, but eye-opening affair with only four colleagues and a bitter ex-wife in attendance. Then, a Reaper appears and takes him to a waystation between Life and Death, a quaint tea-shop run by the Ferryman Hugo, the Reaper Mei, Hugo’s dead grandfather and Hugo’s dog. The purpose is to make sure Wallace has enough time (and courage) to get ready to move on to the next stage, and he is the only one who decides when he is. This is a beautiful story of second chances in the most hopeless situation, and Wallace does get his chance to change from a heartless corporate lawyer who doesn’t take no for an answer into a much better person.
When Yesha (check out her review of the book ) and I started our buddy read we both expected the story to be more solemn. Not that there aren’t any poignant or even heart-breaking moments- T.J.Klune doesn’t shy away from more difficult aspects- violent death, death of a child from a terminal disease, death by suicide…Yet, there is also kindness and humour and lots of tea…The tea chosen by Hugo is unique for every person who comes to the Charon’s Crossing Tea shop, a great reminder that like everybody’s life and what we make of it is different, everyone’s death is different too.
The supporting characters are absolutely wonderful. Hugo, the Ferryman, is the embodiment of empathy and love. He carries the weight of his mistakes on his shoulders, because in a way he is the last frontier of humanity in this setting. His mistakes are all about finding a delicate balance of showing you love and care, and letting the other person exercise their free will, trusting them to do what is the best. The Reaper Mei, the one with the best hugs in the world, knows too well what it’s like not to be accepted because you’re different. Nelson, apart from being deliciously mischievious, throws light on the issue of being there for the person when and until they need you and then letting go when they truly get on their feet. All of the characters in the book help each other to correct their mistakes,to heal, to become stronger, to find love and peace of mind.
This is a love story in a way, although romance is of a slow-burn kind- where there is life, there is love, and this is T.J.Klune’s unique point of view on afterlife. The romance gradually, slowly develops, and it’s impossible not to wish well to this adorable couple.
The Manager and the ending have surprised me…I thought I knew where the story was going and then there was a twist (should have expected given what we were told about Wallace’s character) and things have taken a new, hopeful turn.
I loved this beautiful and unpredictable book ….If you are looking for something heartfelt, original, philosophical at times, humorous at other times, Under the Whispering Door is a book for you.
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Books for the review copy, provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
TJ KLUNE is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling, Lambda Literary Award-winning author of The House in the Cerulean Sea, The Extraordinaries, and more. Being queer himself, Klune believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive queer representation in stories.