ARC Review: Under the Whispering Door

T.J. Klune has really got this wholesome books slap the hardest thing down, hasn’t he? Under the Whispering Door is just that kind of book. Ever wondered what happens after you die? This story has its own take on the idea. Mostly it’s about making the most of second chances, and that it’s never too late to change as a person and to turn things around. I love that hopeful message and I hope you do too when you pick this book up on it’s release date in September.

Star rating: 5 stars

Wallace Price is the definition of all work and no play. He’s a named partner at a law firm that he started with his college and quite literally doesn’t have time for anyone but himself. The opening chapter paints him in his worst light – cruel, unforgiving, a perfectionist and not an empathetic bone in his body. Two days after he fires an employee (ruining her life in the process), Wallace dies of a heart attack and finds himself in the in between. Guided by the reaper Mei and ferryman Hugo assigned to help him cross after death, Wallace refuses to accept that he’s no longer alive. But there’s something about the little tea shop that Mei and Hugo run, and the people he meets along the way, the will change Wallace forever.

Where do I even begin? This book is beyond wholesome. It’s a masterful portrayal of character development – it has to be to take a reader on Wallace’s journey with him. As the focal character, Wallace is instantly dislikeable at the start, kind of like Linus in The House of the Cerulean Sea but worse. He is the cruel to Linus’ ignorance. He’s angry and difficult when he first arrives at the tea shop, but Hugo knows what he is doing as a ferryman. Along with Hugo and Mei, Hugo’s grandfather, a lingering ghost like Wallace, is also clinging to the tea shop to take care of Hugo. Nelson is one of the funniest characters, providing some much needed comic relief in a book that has so much heartbreak and sadness at the centre.

The world-building is so unique, with the characteristics of the living and the dead, of the people who can interact with both, and the way the laws of the universe work. I liked the gentle explanations and the fact that just like the characters experiencing it, we never know the whole truth of what happens when a ghost chooses to move on beyond the door. Wallace learns to enjoy being at the tea shop, growing in character with the help of his new friends. The book definitely has a childlike innocence about it mixed in with the tough topics, but I wouldn’t recommend this one for teens the same way I would The House in the Cerulean Sea because it touches on some intense topics like suicide.

Overall, I loved Under the Whispering Door a lot. T.J. Klune really knows how to write a seemingly uninteresting character and make them fascinating to read about. If you liked The House in the Cerulean Sea then I think it’s very likely you’ll like this one too. Similar vibes, completely different story. Shout out to the dog, Apollo. He really is the goodest boy.

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