Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
LGBT Contemporary Fantasy
September 21, 2021, by Tor Books
Review by Angela
Last year’s The House in the Cerulean Sea was a warm, wonderful, gentle embrace with the softest romance and I positively adored it. My anticipation for Under the Whispering Door couldn’t have been higher, I’m writing this review in May if that tells you anything. And I have to say I enjoyed it just as much, for different reasons, but still had that feeling of comfort when I read the final word.
Under the Whispering Door introduces Wallace Price, a cold, abrupt attorney who is intensely focused on his practice and doesn’t seem to have much use for anything else in his life. The first chapter gives readers a glimpse of his callousness in his living life, the second shows him sitting at his funeral wondering what is going on and why only four other people are in attendance. Then Mei, his reaper, shows up to explain some things, lead him to the next stop in his afterlife, and introduce him to his ferryman, Hugo.
Hugo is understanding and empathetic and has this tender, kind way about him that is the very reason he was chosen as a ferryman. He helps the newly dead work through their emotions, accept that their living life is over and that their next step is just a doorway away. The owner of a tea shop, Hugo is kept company by Mei, the reaper he works with, and the ghosts of his grandfather and the faithful dog that refuses to leave his side.
Wallace is at first, difficult and angry and goes through all the steps of grief. He wants out and to get back to this old life. But then, little by little, he and Hugo form a bond. Yes, there is attraction, but Wallace is dead and Hugo is living and they can’t touch, but they become friends and then so much more and before Wallace realizes it, he is part of this weird, wonderful family and has no desire to move on.
I’m not going to dive too deep into plot specifics, because the beauty of this story is the journey. No spoilers here.
Under the Whispering Door is about grief, and how different people experience it. It’s about working through memories and regrets. It’s also about different kinds of love, from platonic to familial, to romantic and the love of a pet. It’s about past loves and future relationships. Some very dark and heavy themes are represented, but this book still has all of TJ Klune’s trademark charm and whimsy. You will fall in love with this cast of characters, you simply won’t be able to help yourself.
Under the Whispering Door is at times poignant and sad, but you will come out of it with a sense of peace and a fullness of heart. I promise. Highly recommend.
CW: death, grief, mentions of suicide, mentions of cancer
Final grade- A