Genre | Fantasy
Page #s | 373
Publishing Date | September 2021
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.
After falling entirely in love with The House in the Cerulean Sea, I couldn’t wait to dive into T.J. Klune’s newest book, Under the Whispering Door. I set my expectations too high, and the cozy novel wound up falling flat for me.
This isn’t necessarily a bad book, although I will die on the hill that it has a bad ending. Instead, I just felt very “meh” as I read through the story. In a book about life after death, it may seem ridiculous to claim that it didn’t feel very realistic, but. It didn’t. Part of this stems from the fact that the rules about the afterlife are wibbly wobbly at best, and not in a charming Doctor Who way. I kept asking questions of the book, like “Why aren’t there more people coming through this way station?” and even when the book acknowledged this fact itself, the explanation fell flat. The truth is, Klune wanted to write a gay romance between a ghost and a living man, and honestly, more power to him! But that ghost was also not very well written.
Wallace is comically terrible in his introductory scene, but when he abruptly dies, he quickly loses all of his fire. Again, that sounds pretty reasonable! But I felt that there wasn’t enough of a hint of good in him at the start nor was there enough of his bad qualities there in the end to make his character arc feel cohesive. Speaking of unrealistic characters, all of the people (living and dead) at Charon’s Crossing are snarky but wise, like a Gilmore Girls therapist. It was too much and too little simultaneously.
That isn’t to say the book is all bad. I loved the ghost dog, messing with those trying to commune with the dearly departed, and the beauty of helping those who die full of pain. Klune’s wit and charm are evident on every page. But despite all of that…I wish I had just reread The House in the Cerulean Sea.
Who Do I Recommend This Book To?
If you’re looking for a breezy book with some deep thoughts, you can do worse than Under the Whispering Door.
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