Book Review – Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

I must admit I haven’t read his first novel, House in the Cerulean Sea. However I have heard so many good things about that novel and so I jumped at the chance to read and review this title through Netgalley. Needless to say I am now biting at the bit to read his previous title.

Blurb

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.


This novel grabbed me right from the start. You are introduced to Wallace Price, the main character of this story. He is your typical, arrogant, self-absorbed, angry workaholic who cares about nothing and nobody other than his work. He doesn’t have any friends and family and so when he is suddenly taken from the world,  he is angry, but only because he wants to get back to his work.

However, as the story progresses, we see a wonderful character arc. This angry, selfish man slowly learns to accept his fate. And with the help of a ghost, a ghost dog, his reaper, and the ferryman he becomes the man he should have been in life.

This is an emotional, moving novel about death, what happens after you take your last breath and accepting your situation. The pace was slow at times; however, this perfectly reflected the tone of the story, and each chapter was a joy to read to the point I didn’t want it to end.

One aspect of this novel I particularly enjoyed is that, although its main theme was death, a serious, often sombre subject, it still had its light-hearted, comedic moments to lift the tone. It is a beautiful story of life, death, hope and acceptance and everything in between. As we find out more about Wallace’s life before death, we get the bigger picture of who he was, which mostly was his strive to be successful, earn money and win as many cases as he could without anyone getting in his way.

I liked the fact we also had other characters passing through Charon’s Crossing who each served a purpose to help Wallace accept his death as well as make him a better person. These were a mixture of living and dead, but each had a part to play and were far from forgettable.

To me, this is also a story about fate. He could have been placed with any reaper and any ferryman but the people he was chosen to be placed with, to help him pass on, each had their own issues, or hurdles to overcome, which Wallace also had a big part in. Each of the main characters were very well written, had multiple layers as well as being very relatable, and let’s face it, who doesn’t love the idea of a ghost dog?

The whole novel was a beautiful tale which was superbly written. The writer respected the sometimes-taboo subject of death and the whole world was such a wonderful concept. Warning – there are some very emotional chapters which will have you on the edge of your seat crying, so you may want to have tissues nearby.

Reading this has made me even more determined to get hold of T J Klune’s previous novel and read it as his writing style, combined with his character creation is both amazingly executed and beautifully done. I love the idea of going to Charon’s Crossing after you die and having the support from several people, living and dead to help you accept your situation to move on to the next world, whatever that may be.

Under the Whispering Door is out on 21st September.

Have you read his previous novel, House in the Cerulean sea? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – a superb, wonderful LGBT tale of acceptance, moving on and death, created with such love and respect for the topic. A must read.

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