Under the Whispering Door

Under the Whispering Door 
Author: TJ Klune 
Publisher: Tor Books 
Release Date: September 21, 2021 
Genre(s): Fantasy, Death
Page Count: 384 
Rating: 5 stars out of 5 

TJ Klune's latest book is simply stunning. Weaving together Greek mythology (Charon, the ferryman who transports the dead across the River Styx), Celtic legend (the stag that represents the other world and spiritual enlightenment) as well as the Chinese red string of fate, he creates a world of death, growth, forgiveness and incredible perception.

Wallace Price is a piece of work - a hard-ass lawyer who drops dead of a heart attack in his office - on a Sunday - and is unwillingly transported by Mei, a human Reaper, to a little tea house in the forest, where he will eventually ascend through a door into the afterlife. The tea house is a place to come to terms with death, to understand that "grief is a catalyst, a transformation."

The first time you share tea, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family.

Let's just say that Wallace does not go gentle into that good night. He rails against Hugo, the ferryman and teahouse proprietor, as well as Nelson, Hugo's dead grandfather who is hanging around the teahouse as a ghost, along with Apollo, Hugo's ghost dog.  It's a merry mix of the living and the dead, with wry humor and witty asides, all geared to help Wallace resolve his feelings and eventually accept the afterlife.

At close to 400 pages, at times the story moves a bit slowly, but we need that pace in order to steep ourselves in the universe Klune crafts.  The unlikely attraction between Hugo and Wallace comes out of nowhere and while it's all kinds of lovely it felt a bit incomplete and unfleshed out. But overall, I found this story deeply moving, and especially in the world in which we are now all living, deeply comforting. 

Death has a beauty to it. We don't see it because we don't want do. And that makes sense. Why would we want to focus on something that takes us away from everything we know? How do we even begin to understand that there's more than what we see?

5+ stars for Under the Whispering Door and a Recommended Read.

I received an ARC from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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