Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
It took you dying to find your humanity. It’s hysterical if you think about it.
Wallace Price was not, in his mind, a bad man. He liked nice suits. He was dedicated to his work. So what if his employees were scared shitless of his overbearing ways? He was meticulous and demanding and he expected them to be the same. So when he finds himself at his own (very sparsely attended) funeral, he’s beginning to think it might be a joke.
Until a reaper comes to take him to the afterlife. But there’s a snag—he’s delivered to a tea house in the middle of the woods, operated by a ferryman and a handful of ghosts and the reaper, and…death just isn’t what Wallace expected. How unfortunate that he found himself just before he had to move on.
He’d spent a majority of his life with his head turned down. It seemed only fair that eternity would allow him to raise his face toward the sky.
Whew that was a lot of tears. What the hell is it with me and crying books recently?
To be utterly honest, I hated Wallace Price at the beginning. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to continue, particularly since the tonal vibes of The House in the Cerulean Sea were hitting me in ways I wasn’t particularly fond of: emotionally closed off man goes to house in the middle of nowhere and meets incredibly empathetic and kind man dedicated to helping others, and finds himself healed in the process and falls in love.
That’s the gist of the book.
Wallace sighed. “One of those things where you say one thing but mean something else.”
Except in this case the kind and empathetic man is Black and doing a lot of emotional labor to heal the angry, asshole white dude (that’s why this isn’t five-stars—I don’t think Klune was able to get past the “Magical Negro” trope, either for Hugo or Nelson), and there’s a lot of empathetic people going “oh, I see” but not explaining themselves to the emotionally closed off person.
Those’re the down points.
The plusses almost overcome all of that (again, 4 not 5).
“Tea is serious business, Wallace. You don’t heat water for tea in the freaking microwave. Have a little class, man.”
This is like a wonderful cross of The House in the Cerulean Sea (yes, I’m going to keep using this comp title because it fits) meets “Whenever You’re Ready” from The Good Place.
Which seems like a serious spoiler, but it’s not. Not really. There are things that I knew were going to happen and did, and things that I hoped would happen and knew would not (and was mildly disappointed by but the ending is still solid).
These are just my initial thoughts after finishing. Although they seem rather harsh, but seriously, this book is solid. Lots of grief, lots of emotion, lots of love and moving on and acceptance, and so much death. But in a good way?
All I can really say without too many spoilers is that if you liked the two comps I mentioned, you will enjoy this one.
By enjoy, I mean you’ll end the book like someone shoved a hook on a line through your chest and pulled your heart out.
Oops. I’ve said too much.
“Why are you lying on the floor?” Mei asked.
“Why do we do anything that we do?” Wallace said dully. “There’s no point.”
“Oh man,” Mei said. “It’s far too early for your existential angst. At least me wake up before having to deal with such a bummer.”
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Under the Whispering Door releases September 21, 2021, from Tor