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.
***Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.
Even though Under the Whispering Door was predictable from the very beginning, I absolutely loved it. Klune tapped so deep into the emotions of each scene, I swear I spent the second half of the book in tears.
I loved every single character, except for Wallace – which I suppose was Klune’s intention. As I’m sure was the goal, he did start to grow on me, but he paled in comparison to the others. They were all such unique, quirky characters, and I appreciated their role in this house and on this journey.
He hoped wherever he was going that there'd still be the sun and the moon and the stars. He'd spent a majority of his life with his head turned down. It seemed only fair that eternity would allow him to raise his face toward the sky.
The concept allowed for a not-so-abstract discussion about life, death, and meaning. It reminded me of the tv show The Good Place, in that it makes me hopeful to have perspectives like this one out in the world. It’s a nice change of pace to read about death without having to factor religion or an all-knowing, all-powerful god into the mix.
Unless you count the manager – which I don’t. He’s clearly not in charge, especially considering his conversation with the door near the end there…
Conversations about death shouldn’t be restricted to religion, and stories like these may provide the perspective needed for some to find meaning in their own life.
Everyone loses their way at some point, and it's not just because of their mistakes or the decisions they make. It’s because they’re horribly, wonderfully human. And the one thing I've learned about being human is that we can't do this alone. When we're lost, we need help to try to find our way again.
There are several parts of Under the Whispering Door that may be confronting, especially when the causes of death of other ghosts become part of the story. I think the predictability of the book helps with this, though. Since death in its many forms can be triggering, having an idea of where the story is heading can make it hopeful rather than depressing.
Yes, Under the Whispering Door made me sad, but it also made me optimistic and content. This book contained multitudes, as Hugo is so fond of accusing Wallace of containing. This is the third book by Klune that I could not put down – he’s quickly climbing my list of favourite, reliable authors.