Under the Whispering Door byT.J. Klune

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.

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.

“An ending. Leading to a new beginning.”

If someone had told me a week ago that I would fall in love with a book whose primary focus is death, I probably would’ve smiled and nodded politely while secretly wondering why this person was so weird. It’s not a subject a lot of people want to think about, much less read close to 400 pages focused on. TJ Klune’s wonderful gem of a book may just change your feelings on it!

40-year-old lawyer Wallace Price is a … well, replace the ‘e’ in his last name with a ‘k’, and that about sums him up. He’s aloof and cold, more concerned about the bottom line than his employees, has no friends, a failed marriage and no real conscience. When he suddenly drops dead of a heart attack one day, his is the only heart that’s broken.

Enter his reaper, a deliciously sarcastic young woman named Mei, and the wonderfully good-hearted ferryman she assists, Hugo. These two very-much-alive humans are assigned to help him, and others, adjust to being dead and cross over to what lies beyond. They do this from a quirky home in the forest, Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats, where they are as equally adept at serving customers muffins, scones and tea, as they are at helping the dead. Also living there … wait, scratch that … existing there, are the absolutely delightful ghosts of Hugo’s hilarious and sprightly grandfather, Nelson, and Hugo’s lovable, lick-happy dog, Apollo.

At its heart, this is as much a book about death as it is about appreciating life and learning to live. As the opening quote suggests, an ending is merely the beginning of something new, and that’s the redemptive journey the reader goes on with Wallace … from someone who was dead inside, long before his body followed suit, to someone who sees and relishes the life, love and meaning his new “family” offers him. His transformation is a truly special one.

Klune wrote a book that’s insightful and deep, without being heavy, one that made me laugh and smile over and over, and – for someone who doesn’t cry easily – made me blubber like a damn fool! I fell in love with all these characters and dreaded the book ending because I didn’t want to leave my adopted home with them in the woods.

Not a lot actually happens outside the house, but the goings-on in the house were so entertaining I would’ve gladly pulled up a chair and hung out with them for as long as possible. My only complaint, which knocked it down a ½ star (but not really since I’m rounding up), is that I would’ve preferred a slightly different way of handling the ending, but not so much that I felt disappointed. Overall, a heartwarming and wonderful story!

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