Book Review: Under the Whispering Door by T.K. Klune

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: September 21st, 2021
Pages: 384, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

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.

Who is whispering beyond the door at Hugo’s tea shop? Wallace wants to know; too bad he had to die to find out. 

Wallace was not a nice person when he was alive, and death doesn’t seem to have improved him at all. It’s early days though, and Hugo, a ferryman for the dead, has lots of patience and tea. Wallace’s afterlife may be the making not only of him, but of others who have been locked into grief and death for far too long. 

This book is so lyrical and magical that it’s hard to describe. It’s poignant without being maudlin. You physically ache for the characters. I picture Klune like a jeweler, setting each stone in place with care. While the story centers on the interaction between Wallace and ferryman Hugo, the other characters are full in their own right, and the world the inhabit is as familiar as our own town.

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune carries trigger warnings for death, including suicide and murder. Those elements are present, and I cried more than once reading this novel. It’s a beautiful story, though, and as comforting, in places, as the tea Hugo serves.

Cannot recommend enough. Five out of five stars.

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