Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh and the dead are just passing through.
When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own sparsely-attended funeral, Wallace is outraged. But he begins to suspect she’s right, and he is in fact dead. Then when Hugo, owner of a most peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace reluctantly accepts the truth.
Yet even in death, he refuses to abandon his life – even though Wallace spent all of it working, correcting colleagues and hectoring employees. He’d had no time for frivolities like fun and friends. But as Wallace drinks tea with Hugo and talks to his customers, he wonders if he was missing something.
The feeling grows as he shares jokes with the resident ghost, manifests embarrassing footwear and notices the stars. So when he’s given one week to pass through the door to the other side, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in just seven days.
Wallace Price, a hot shot lawyer nobody really liked, suddenly dies of a heart attack. He’s faced with the complex journey of the navigating the afterlife, namely, making peace with his death. To do this, he unwillingly goes along with his appointed Reaper and Ferryman, and finds his life in death might be more meaningful than his life alive.
This book shook me to my very core of being. I laughed, I cried, I mourned, I celebrated. I loved this book with every fibre of my being. I was worried I was taking a risk reading this book when I did (I’d just lost my furry best friend of nearly 14 years) but T.J. Klune helped me cope with my grief, even in the face of a little pain. Despite the pace being a little tricky at first, the story is full of wit, humour and true joy, with a climax that had my gut in knots and heartstrings aching for happily ever after.
The characters are purer than pure and feel like family the more the book goes on. I kept imagining Alan Cumming as Wallace and Five from the Umbrella Academy as the Manager! Wallace faces the hard truths of what he did with his life; perhaps realising he lived quite a selfish and meaningless life. Wallace is helped by his Ferryman, Hugo Freeman, who is patient and full of warmth. Their interactions were comforting and, as the story progresses, simmering with chemistry.
Alongside Wallace and Hugo, there’s Mei the Reaper and Grandpa Nelson; both bring the sass and comedy to make many laugh out loud moments. Nelson and his dog Apollo have taken a wee piece of residence in my heart, they were my fave! And in the background but at the helm of it all, is the ever powerful and ominous Manager, who seemingly controls life and death.
The outlooks, philosophy and heart within this story is phenomenal. Under the Whispering Door brings a lightness to the sadness of death like nothing I’ve ever read. The closest has been The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, and while I think fans of that book will love this, it remains singularly unique.
On that note, the story broaches the topic of death on multiple levels. There’s sudden and unexpected death, from accidents to deteriorating health, to getting older, suicide or dealing with terminal illness. It also deals with the grieving process in all its ugliness and naturalness. It was a little tough to read at points, but worth the sadness for all the goodness the story delivered.
This book will have you holding on tight to those nearest and dearest; checking in on loved ones who are placed far and wide. To describe my reactions as smiling ear to ear and floods of tears is most definitely an understatement. It’s one of my favourite reads of 2021! Under the Whispering Door was such a cathartic experience and T.J. Klune has my eternal gratitude for writing such a wonderful story. I didn’t want it to end and I’ll happily reread it in future. If you love the likes of It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol or The Midnight Library, you’ll not want to miss this.
Thank you kindly to Tor UK for an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.