Book Review: Under the Whispering Door by T J Klune

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

I have a pre-order for the Waterstones edition of this book but I couldn’t resist when I was offered the opportunity to read an e-ARC. Like so many others I had absolutely adored The House in the Cerulean Sea which was a great big hug in a book. If you are expecting the same again from Whispering Door then you’ll be disappointed. That’s not to say that Whispering Door is a bad book – nothing could be further from the truth – I loved it, the writing was every bit as good as I expected and the characters were expertly crafted. However if Cerulean Sea was a warm hug then Whispering Door was like therapy.

There were strong themes to the book, death, acceptance, person growth, love and redemption. Above all it was about being the best we can be and finding our own path.

Wallace was captivating right from the start, he wasn’t a kind man but even so I was immediately drawn to him and his plight and his obvious confusion at what was happening too him. Wallace’s character growth over the course of the book was one of the best I have ever seen an it was a pleasure to go on the journey with him.

Although Wallace is arguably our main character it was very much an ensemble cast with Mei our feisty but green Reaper (Wallace is her first solo collection) Hugo the Ferryman who helps the dead cross over from the comfort of his amazing Tea Shop, Nelson and Apollo – Hugo’s dead Grandfather who’s full of advice and a fair bit of mischief and dead dog who just wants to play with everyone and protect Hugo.

Hugo was intricate and vulnerable in his own ways too – despite the important role he held as Ferryman at a Crossing Point. I loved, loved, loved his Tea Shop – I wish it was real so I could visit. With the tea growing behind the shop and Hugo making the blends himself along with all the fresh baked goods that Mei and Hugo produced I could definitely spend a happy afternoon or two at Charon’s Crossing.

A word of warning though – you will absolutely need a box of tissues on hand while reading this one. I sped through the first 80% or so completely absorbed, the last 20% probably took me about the same amount of time to read as I had to keep stopping due to not being able to see the page any more!

A marvellous, absorbing book that made me think about making sure the people I love are shown it, this is one I’ll be recommending to everyone.

With thanks to Tor books, Black Crow PR and Netgalley for an e-arc in exchange for honest review.

Under the Whispering Door will be published 28/10/2021