Wallace Price is not a good man. Wallace Price is a dead man. Quite literally, Wallace Price is watching his own funeral.
Wondering where all the mourners and crying assistants, Wallace meets Mei, his Reaper, who escorts him to Charon’s Crossing, a cosy little teahouse out in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere Wallace wouldn’t be caught dead…oh…
The teahouse is run by Hugo, the Ferryman, who helps souls with the transition out of life, through The Door, and on to…whatever comes next.
In a hauntingly feel-good novel, TJ Klune once again takes a man with flaws and teaches him that good people bring out the good in people. Much like The House in the Cerulean Sea, Under the Whispering Door features the sweet charm and eccentricity that is Klune’s signature and tells the story of love, learning and life.
What I Liked: So much of this book – the dialogue, the interactions – is tongue in cheek. It gently pokes fun at a man who took himself too seriously in life, and with kind guidance, perfectly steeped tea, teaches him to accept himself for who he was, who he is and who he could be – and make the most of every moment he has.
Klune writes beautifully quirky, tight-knit characters who form their own loving families. In Under the Whispering Door, Mei is high energy, high strung and highly protective of her sweet little family. Nelson, Hugo’s grandfather, is the wily, cheeky and wise veteran who teaches Wallace everything he needs to know about being a ghost. Wallace finds that taking a step back from work and routine shows a whole other man underneath the suit – one that he likes a lot more than he expected. Hugo is the heart and soul of the teahouse, he shines with empathy, earnestness and easy affectionate for everyone he meets.
While the story is focused on Wallace coming to terms with his death, understanding what it means to be a ghost, and the Manager’s announcement that he has seven days to cross over or else – it very neatly combines Wallace’s growth with insights into what it means to be the Ferry Man, the draw of The Door and the threat of the Husks.
The romance! Oh, Klune does write very sweet, very heart-warming romances. The romance in this book feels like a warm hug. It builds up so gently – small smiles, stargazing and hot cups of tea – until you’re completely invested. Even the secondary romantic relationships – Wallace’s memories of his ex-wife, and Cameron’s memories of Zach – will give you the warm and fuzzies.
What I Didn’t Like: The Manager was a bit much. His….interaction form(?) felt a little cliche and his dialogue didn’t really fit with the way other characters were afraid of him. I liked where Klune took the character and who they behaved, but felt the representation was lacking.
Conclusion: Read this book. Buy this book. Read The House in the Cerulean Sea. Put these books on your shelf and reach for them whenever you need a pick-me-up.