Death is only the beginning in this heartwarming tale of life in the afterlife. If you loved TJ Klune’s other breakout fantasy novel about a man discovering his heart and his found family in The House in the Cerulean Sea, buckle in for another emotional ride with Under the Whispering Door. TJ Klune has done it again! So get read to be swept away by the world of reapers and ferrymen at Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats, a tea shop that also happens to be a waystation for the recently deceased.
Yep, Wallace is a jaded lawyer who, within pages of us meeting him, dies suddenly from a heart attack. After being whisked away by an inexperienced young reaper, he finally finds his purpose in the unlikeliest of places: a tea shop. Wallace wasn’t a particularly good person in life, and he doesn’t seem to be doing much better in death. He yells at his reaper when she’s trying to sleep and argues with the ghost of a grandfather just trying to help him understand what it means to be dead. And don’t even get him started on the ferryman telling him about the door upstairs he’ll eventually cross over through. Cross over to what? Nobody seems to know. But the longer Wallace spends with the strange group running the tea shop, the more he begins to realize his life wasn’t a good one. But maybe it’s not too late to start changing things now.
I loved this book so much. Stories with unlikeable protagonists can be hit or miss. But when they hit, oh they hit so hard and so good. The growth we get to see in Wallace throughout the story is so rewarding. I love the relationships that he develops with Mei, Nelson, and, of course, Hugo. The view of death is maybe a bit saccharine at times, but, hey, this is fantasy. And despite all that stuff about dying, it really is meant to be an uplifting story about life, love, and fighting to become a better person, no matter how long it takes. It does still deal with grief and trauma (including depicting one death from suicide, so take care in regards to that if you need to). But the whole story is full of wit and charm and just a delight to read.
Be sure to snag a copy from your local bookseller. Under the Whispering Door released September 21, 2021.