Under The Whispering Door- TJ Klune

Published by: St Martins Press
Pages: 384
Date Published: 21/09/2021

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.


Thanks to NetGalley, St Martins Press, and TJ Klune for an advanced reader copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I’ve not read any of Klune’s previous work, but if Under The Whispering Door is anything to go by, I’d read his shopping list, his writing is that spectacular.

It is such an unusual plot idea, that somehow seems like it should be a really obvious plot idea, but this is definitely the first of its kind I’ve read. It is so emotional and moving but not over the top. It’s a fantasy that is so installed in real life and proves to us that it’s never too late to make the life you wanted.

This was being marketed as a LGBTQ+ book, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t even notice. If I read a book with a male/female relationship, I don’t consciously notice it, it just is. This just happens to be a male/male relationship and I can understand just how important it is for a reader to see this portrayed as normal in a mainstream book.

Considering most of this book is set in just the one location with the same half a dozen characters, it could have become quite dull, but it never ventures anywhere near dull-town.

The characters are – ironically – so full of life. For a work of fiction – in other words a literal figment of Klune’s imagination – it is hugely touching and really gets you thinking about your own life and how you would want to be remembered once your time is up.

There are lots of books I could see being made into films but this one I saw clearer than any I’ve read. I could see the characters, the house, even the emotions had clear characteristics of their own.

I didn’t want to read this book quickly, I wanted to stay with it forever, and I would gladly read a sequel if it could warrant it. I don’t want to leave Hugo and Wallace quite yet.

This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It is entertaining, original, emotional, loving, difficult, thought-provoking, and simply beautiful.

I will finish with my favourite line from it:

“It’s never enough, is it? Time. We always think we have so much of it, but when it really counts, we don’t have enough at all.”

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