Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy with TJ Klune’s signature “quirk and charm” (PW) about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.
When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.
Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.
But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.
When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.
By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.
Title : Under the Whispering Door
Author : TJ Klune
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : September 21, 2021/October 28, 2021
Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
Anyone else find they go back to the cover of a book they’ve just read and notice things they didn’t before? Because it me.
Here, at the end, he’d found a friend.
Surprising no one, this book made me cry. A lot.
“I can’t grieve for myself.”
“Of course you can. We do it all the time, regardless of if we’re alive or not, over the small things and the big things. Everyone is a little bit sad all the time.”
If you’ve read the synopsis for this one, there honestly isn’t a whole lot more I can say without ruining everything. But this story deals with grief, death, and the unfortunate reality of hindsight and perspective; and how often it occurs to us too late. But it’s also about being a better person, or trying to be, even if — especially if — there’s no benefit to you. Just doing the right thing because it’s what should be done.
What if across the top, written in bold letters (and in Comic Sans!) was a summation of Wallace Price’s life that was less than flattering? HE DIDN’T DO A WHOLE LOT, BUT HE HAD NICE SUITS! or, worse, NOT THAT GREAT, IF I’M BEING HONEST.
For all the tears, and for all the story is saying something lovely, though not particularly profound — though maybe the simplicity makes it profound? you decide — I’ll admit that, some fun antics with the characters who live in this bizarre tea house side, there was only so much that could happen, that we could see play out. The journey is mostly internal for Wallace, our lead, to relive moments of his life, to relearn things he had forgotten, to be better. We do sort’ve go through some motions, which makes sense because, I mean, he’s dead, all he has is motions to go through, but this story is almost all character-driven. There is more action, more excitement, near the end, though. Both related to, but also not, to all my tears. There’s one character, Cameron, well.. yeah, lots of tears for that one.
Honesty was a weapon. It could be used to stab and tear and spill blood upon the earth. Wallace knew that; he had his fair share of blood on his hands because of it. But it was different now. He was using it upon himself, and he was flayed open because of it, nerve endings exposed.
You’ll definitely find some Klune-esque humour, though not quite to the extremes he can often get, and some of his characters — Mei, Nelson — all but leap off the page in your face. As much as I enjoyed Wallace, and Hugo, they weren’t my favourites; and seeing as the story focuses the most of them, that might be why this isn’t a full five stars. Their parts were sometimes lovely, moving, and often sweet. But when I think back on this story, which I’m sure I will, they won’t be the first ones to come to mind.
“We don’t murder people.“
“We don’t do that either.“
“Nothing’s stopping us. You told me that we should always try and achieve our dreams.“
“I didn’t have murder in mind when I told you that.”
“That’s because you think too small.”
Full of thoughtful exploration and devastating observations, tea, and equal parts cozy and sad and strange, as long as you don’t go thinking this is another The House in the Cerulean Sea — though you may see a little blink and you miss it throwaway reference to it, and another of Klune series or two — I think you’ll really appreciate this story. But don’t forget to pack the tissues.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Micky’s 5 star review
Bruised but full heart
Whimsical beauty within
I’m sitting staring at my screen trying to find the words, after reading all the beautiful words in Under the Whispering Door. This story of Wallace’s journey from life and to the beyond captured my mind and my heart completely; I did not want to let go.
This story is about loneliness, finding a famiy and purpose while also finding out about the secrets beyond life, at least a fantastical representation of that. I thought what Klune has created here was poignant, whimsical, emotional and incredibly funny at times. Considering the themes of death and grief, the wit balanced out all the things, as did the characters.
This world was a surprise around every corner, from Mei to the tea plants and the manager to the door. The story of the husks was especially gut wrenching. The connection between Wallace and Hugo was something special, hearts pounded, love abounded and that was just me…
I cried, I laughed and I treasured. Just do yourself a favour and pick this book up.
Thank you to Tor and Black Crow PR for the precious review copy.