Title: Under the Whispering Door
Author: TJ Klune
Release Date: 28/10/2021 (UK)
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 55
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Pan Macmillian/Tor ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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 don’t know if there is a way to describe the utter beauty and calm of this book. It has you laughing and crying with joy one moment, and contemplating the complexities of grief in the next. I shed tears for almost every character, I giggled, I loved every moment. There is something profoundly calming about the whole book despite it coving topics such as grief, death, murder and suicide (to which the author has included a trigger warning for in the authors note).
The worldbuilding is just gorgeous, I could imagine every inch of Hugo’s Tea shop to me it was a haze of well worn pastel painted furniture that seems to fit no mater the season. It also elegantly sidesteps the questions of the afterlife, allowing for both religious and non-religious beliefs to co-exist and discusses all these possibilities in a respectful and peaceful manor. It sets no definitive leaving the reader to keep there questions open or their beliefs as to what is after. Instead it gives a beautiful rest stop in which to explore the meaning of both life and death. To think about what grief means to people and what life means to people. The whole thing is just packed with emotion that it radiates out and you can’t help but feel it all too.
Wallace the main character is just amazing, he has a very obvious character arc but it works perfectly. He is a dick, completely and utterly and therefore as a reader you don’t feel so awful witnessing his death in the first few pages of the book. TJ Klune masterfully makes you despise Wallace and yet twists it so you fall in love with Wallace in such a short space of time. The other characters are just such cinnamon rolls, they are witty and wistful and just so much fun to read about as they help Wallace on his journey. There are real moments of sadness and reflection brought on by some of the interactions, where others had me sniggering with laughter.
While the plot is the redemption tale we have probably encountered before TJ Klune’s writing, characterization and worldbuilding make this just a magical read. It is one of those warm blanket of a reads where you feel safe and secure and can loose yourself in the thoughts it provokes and the quiet calm it instils. Its just a beautiful book.