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Under the Whispering Door (edition 2021)
by TJ Klune (Author)
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
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I recognize that I’m one of the last people on the planet to read this story; bear with me as I provide a very brief plot summary for the other three people who haven’t read it yet.
Wallace is a jerk. A dead jerk. Shepherded by a Reaper named Mei, Wallace makes a wayside stop on his journey to eternity, at a little tea shop run by Hugo Freeman.
This is more than a tea shop; Hugo is a Ferryman, helping people to cross from the land of the living to the land of the dead, but unlike the ferrymen of mythology, Hugo does not escort his fares on a boat; instead, he ushers them through a door from which whispers can be heard by those with ears to hear.
Whether the author meant to reference theological concepts or not, I found them in the story. My mildly Christian upbringing informing my views, I recognized an indifferent diety, a resurrected redeemer of the unredeemable, and even a Door, which is one way Jesus described himself in John’s gospel. There are hints of old gods and older religions, and likely some references to other faith traditions that I missed due to lack of knowledge of those traditions.
TJ Klune is a great builder of worlds; I was unsettled by how quickly I suspended disbelief and bought into the concept of a not-quite-afterlife populated by cranky dead lawyers, deceased grandparents with acerbic wit, and adorable dogs who are just as lively in death as they were in life. Even as tears streamed down my face during the last chapter and the epilogue (read beautifully by Kirt Graves, by the way – and that last name is some coincidence) I felt manipulated, but maybe my strong emotional reaction speaks to the skill with which Klune built his characters. Maybe.
As I read, I noted book’s similarity to Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea. Two very different men, surrounded by magic, fall in love as one of them is transformed into his best self. This isn’t a bad theme, but Under the Whispering Door was was – too much. I enjoyed Cerulean Sea more, maybe because I didn’t get so effortlessly sucked into that story, or maybe because I wasn’t comparing it to another book.
I want to rate this book at three stars based on my dismay at being so deeply submerged in the story, but that’s just silly. I was never bored, and obviously the story is very engaging. The narrator skillfully and pleasantly depicts each character. Four stars.
This book was not at all what I expected, but it was wonderful. A story about life and change and growth but mostly death, grief, and accepting death. Beautiful. Read it in an afternoon.
Under the Whispering Door is one of the most intense books I ever read. Intense, but also hilarious. Sad. Uplifting. Thought-provoking. Riveting. Charming.
[Keep reading @ Bookshelves & Teacups]
If ever there was an author to watch out for, [Klune] is definitely that author.
A delightful tale about chosen families, and how to celebrate differences.
This inclusive fantasy is quite possibly the greatest feel-good story ever to involve the Antichrist.... The House in the Cerulean Sea will delight fans of Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series and any reader looking for a burst of humor and hope.
There is so much to enjoy in Under the Whispering Door, but what I cherish the most is its compassion for the little things―a touch, a glance, a precious piece of dialogue―healing me, telling me that for all the strangenesses I hold, I am valued, valid―and maybe even worthy of love.
This is a sweet narrative about the value of asking questions and the benefits of giving people (especially children) a chance to be safe, protected, and themselves, regardless of what assumptions one might glean from, say, reading their case file.
"A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place in Under the Whispering Door, a delightful queer love story from TJ Klune, author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller The House in the Cerulean Sea. 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"--
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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This book is meant to really explore the seven stages of dealing with death, and how it’s a fundamentally human and beautiful process. We all have to go through it, just we each have our own path.
I always love these types of Books that explore such basic human themes and are able to make a reader feel, and this did not disappoint.
Also probably the best (thinking of Legends & Late’s) representation of an organic and natural gay relationship. I don’t like when a relationship, heterosexual or not, feels forced and the characters feel less organic because of it. This tends to happen a lot with homosexual relationships because they get included as background characters rather than the focal point. Or if they are they’re handled as “gay characters” and end up using hurtful stereotypes. T. J Kline did a wonderful job of making all the cast innately human in every way possible, which is the sign of an amazing writer.
Looking forward to reading more from him! ( )