Published by Tor Books on September 21, 2021
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
T.J. Klune’s new novel Under the Whispering Door is pure, heartwarming magic. I loved this story so much that I know nothing I write here is going to convey just how special this book is. I’m going to try though so bear with me.
The story follows Wallace Price and it actually begins with his death. Wallace was apparently such a jerk while he was alive that only four people show up for his funeral — his ex-wife and his three partners from his law firm — and based on their comments, they all clearly did not like him. Also in attendance at the funeral, is Wallace himself, or rather the ghost of Wallace. He’s somewhat in disbelief that he’s actually dead and mad because he still had so much work to do, cases to prepare for, etc. He’s also furious about the nasty comments the funeral attendees are making about him.
Wallace is distracted by all of this, however, when he realizes that a mystery woman who is also attending the funeral can actually see him in his ghost form. She introduces herself as Mei and explains that she is a Reaper who has come to collect his soul and help him to cross over to the afterlife. Instead of taking him directly to the afterlife, however, Mei instead leads the reluctant Wallace to a tea shop located in a small, remote village. There she introduces him to Hugo, the owner of the tea shop who also happens to be a ferryman to souls who need to cross to the afterlife. Wallace insists he isn’t ready to leave his life behind and thus begins a journey with Hugo that allows him to fully discover and explore all the things he missed out on in life while he was so fully obsessed with work and power, including love, kindness, and family, just to name a few biggies.
This story is filled with laugh out loud moments as Wallace adjusts to his “life” as a ghost and particularly as he is constantly teased by Mei and punked by another resident ghost, Hugo’s grandfather. Hugo’s grandfather steals every scene he is in, as does Hugo’s loyal ghost dog, Apollo. Aside from being hilarious though, Under the Whispering Door is also just an all around moving, emotional story because of its focus on love and loss, and living life to the fullest. It explores death and how we all deal with loss and grief differently, and I guess maybe because I had just lost a loved one right before I read this book, that aspect of the story really resonated with me. I cried just as much as I laughed, especially because Wallace grows so much throughout the story that I went from hating him and thinking he was the worst person ever to absolutely adoring him and never wanting him to pass on and leave Hugo and Mei, his wonderful found family, behind. That’s a pretty powerful transformation for a character to make and T.J. Klune does it in such a beautiful and realistic way.
I could go on and on about everything I loved about this book, but you’ll really want to experience all of its magic yourself. Under the Whispering Door is a book that’s going to stay with me for a long time and it has definitely placed T.J. Klune on my list of auto-buy authors.