Review #200

Title- Under the Whispering Door

Author- TJ Klune

Series- standalone

Rating– 4.3/5

Genre- contemporary literary fiction, or MM romance

POV- third person, past tense

Trope- philosophical, stages of grief

Cover– matches the author’s other book, giving him a trademark symbol

Comps– the TV show “The Good Place,” but books- The Midnight Library , Timekeeper, a whimsical MM romance where the main character falls in love with a clock spirit.

Plot/Blurb-

Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

First chapter – had a vivid opening with the unique characterization and witty dialogue. I got such a perfect characterization of Wallace. The theme so far seems to be caring about people/opening up your heart instead of focusing only on excelling in career. Or accepting mistakes and giving grace because no one is perfect. Or trialing a life with relationships instead of closing off yourself to people.

“I wish I could just flip a switch for you, but that’s not how it works. It’s a process and it takes time. For me, it started when I was shown the truth. It changed me, though definitely not right away.”

Character Development- Wallace had to learn not to be an asshole and how to form friendships and care about others


 “I could tell you I’m firm in my beliefs, but that wouldn’t be entirely true … it’s like the tea shop. I don’t think it’d take much to see it all come toppling down … The walls would crumble, the floor would crack, and all that would be left is rubble and dust.”

Best part- very quotable, such as: “How freeing it was, letting go. Finally, at last. He wasn’t scared. Not anymore.”

What I would change- a slow middle. Once a “one week timeline” was introduced that helped.

 “I held on as tightly as I could. I worried that I wouldn’t be enough, that you wanted more than I could give you.”


Setting-
I loved the uniqueness of the four story house posing as a tea shop

Prose- beautiful, preachy at times, but it did the trick

Theme-
we are all on our own journey and can’t fully “understand” someone else’s entire experience

Vivid sensory descriptions- yes

“Death has a beauty to it. We don’t see it because we don’t want to. 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?” 


Dialogue-
extremely strong

Inclusivity- two lead characters as the ferryman and his grandpa who are Black, a Reaper who is female and Asian, and MM romance

“He gripped the hook, the metal hot against his palms and fingers, but it didn’t burn. He pulled as hard as he could, the pain immense, causing him to grit his teeth together. Tears flooded his eyes, and he cried out as the book came free. The heaviness loosened its grip, a wave of relief washing over him that felt like the sun and the stars.”


Ethics/morals-
questioning the concept of an all encompassing God that humans constructed


Conflict/tension/obstacles-
mostly internal struggles

 “Time. We always think we have so much of it, but when it really counts, we don’t have enough at all.”


Pacing-
slower in general, yet I did read it within 24 hours so … you be the judge


“Honesty was a weapon. It could be used to stab and tear and spill blood upon the earth.”

Thoughts while reading-

Chapter 2- Mei is a gem and absolutely hilarious. The comedic relief is super appreciated and refreshing

Chapter 4- I love the denial stage and the hook tugging him along. Great idea. 

Chapter 5 felt a bit repetitive but I’m sensing the bargaining stage is starting. His confusion is turning to anger. 

Chapter 6- the flaking of skin disappearing is super vivid and an intriguing concept. It really paints a picture. Wallace isn’t likeable by any means so far since he has no interests other than looking successful to others or passions other than success. But his feelings are definitely relatable. Nelson is my favorite character with his ridiculous jokes and poor Apollo is as sweet as can be. I’m intrigued about the door on the 4th level and if it does what they claim.

Chapter 7 is a bit slow and I hope a bit more memories of his childhood comes up again.

Chapter 8- things are getting a little preachy and going around in circles a bit but I’m still invested.

Chapter 10- is the silent depressed woman who comes to the tea shop living or dead? And if Hugo is bound to this job for the rest of his life then he’s definitely trapped.

Chapter 11- it must suck to start having feelings with another when they’re aren’t in the same world or corpeal. The ouija board scene was amazingly entertaining.

Halfway through- it’s a slower read than my typical with lots of philosophical chat and mental health therapist type discussion, but the comedy, whimsical setting, & curiosity of what will happen keeps me hooked

Chapter 12- I love that he saw the door and it’s unique placement which was super symbolic. The Cameron moment was efficiently creepy and worrisome.

Chapter 13- I’m so glad a new guest is arriving to switch up the dynamic

Chapter 15- is the manager the antagonist? They’re going through the same routine as the first half of the book but using Alan instead of Wallace as the example & now Wallace is on the other side of it.

Chapter 16- have you had “What if….?” moments of considering another path or option in life?

Chapter 17- I’m glad a ticking clock was given for urgency

Chapter 18- Nancy’s life is my greatest fear

Chapter 19- seemed like Wallace should’ve picked Mei to have that discussion with Naomi instead of Hugo. But then we’d have less conflict, wouldn’t we?

“It’s easy to let yourself spiral and fall.”
“It is … but it’s what you do to pull yourself out of it that matters most.”

Ending- Chapter 22- I was unsure which way the author would go with the ending but I think I’d be satisfied either way, which shows great writing.

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

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