Title: Under the Whispering Door
Author: TJ Klune
Release Date: September 21st, 2021
Genre: Adult Fiction – Fantasy – Contemporary – Romance – LGBTQIA+
My rating in stars:
My rating in words:
Another fave from TJ Klune!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
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.
Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.
MY THOUGHTS (spoiler-free):
Well, last year a TJ Klune book became my number one favorite read of the year, and I think this year that’ll be the case once more. Because Under The Whispering Door was just PHENOMENAL. This is writing. This is storytelling. When a story makes you FEEL so much, when you care so much about these characters and when it makes you reflect on your own life and journey – there’s just nothing quite as powerful as that. Be prepared for me to rave about this book for the next foreseeable future because I might never get over this profound, touching and heartwarming story about love and loss.
The story starts off with Wallace Price, our main character, and we can immediately tell that Wallace… is not a nice person. In fact, he’s quite the jerk. The dislike I felt for him was quite intense actually. But then, Wallace dies and as he moves around as a ghost and visits his own funeral (where only 4 people show up and none of them have anything nice to say about him), he encounters a strange woman called Mei, who is the only one who can see, hear and even touch him. Turns out that Mei is a Reaper and is there to escort him to his Ferryman, who will help him cross over. She takes him to a cozy tea shop in a remote little town where he meets Hugo, his ferryman, as well as Nelson, Hugo’s ghostly grandfather and Apollo, Hugo’s equally ghostly dog. With this group of people, Wallace spends his time reflecting about his life and death, adjusting to becoming a ghost and trying to get ready to cross over.
So you know how I just said I quite disliked Wallace Price at first? I thought it would stick with me throughout the book, but the journey that Wallace goes on with Hugo is so profound and emotional and as he begins to discover the things he missed out on in his life, Wallace grows so much that I grew to completely adore the guy. The character growth is so beautiful, but it’s also so expertly written that it felt gradual and realistic.
Of course, Wallace is not alone in this. He has the help of Hugo, who is one of the kindest, sweetest, most caring souls ever and how could Wallace not fall in love with this kind Ferryman? But also Mei, the strange and quirky Reaper with the best kind of humor and Nelson, with his constant teasing, no-nonsense attitude and wise words, are all there for him. And of course Apollo, the loyal dog and overall good boy! This little band of misfits becomes such a beautiful found family (and I’m a sucker for a good found family) that I cared for so, so much and all I wanted was for Wallace to stay with them forever and just be happy together.
The story flows beautifully and is filled with both laugh-out-loud moments and emotional, teary ones. It’s heartwarming and poignant and will stay inside your heart long after reading it. I compared the previous TJ Klune book I read and loved (Read The House in the Cerulean Sea everyone!) to a ray of sunshine, a shot of serotonin and a warm hug combined. Under The Whispering Door is all that too, yet combined with a heavy topic that also brings out the emotions. But somehow, it all works. It’s one of those books you have to experience for yourself, so all I can say is please give it a try.
“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.”
“The first time you share tea, you are a stranger. The second time you share tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share tea, you become family.”
“Life is senseless, and on the off chance we find something that does make sense, we hold onto it as tightly as we can.”
“We live and we breathe. We die, and we still feel like breathing. It’s not always the big deaths either. There are little deaths, because that’s what grief is.”