Well, hello there strangers! We are back after our summer hiatus with a wonderful little romp in the afterlife. This post is slightly different from our usual back and forth because our thoughts literally just worked out much better this way for this particular review. Feel free to let us know either in the comments or on Instagram as to the format that you all prefer. The goal is to make this as reader friendly for all of you so you can find your next read. And now, onto the synopsis and discussion!
"When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.
Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop's owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.
But Wallace isn't ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo's help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.
When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.
Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with."
Erin: Welcome back, us! It's been a long hiatus and hopefully we are getting back to regular programming here. Seems fitting that it's that “back to school” time of year, and we’re now ready to jump back into blog posts and reviews.
We’re returning with the latest whimsical read from T.J. Kline “Under the Whispering Door”
I don’t know if it's the illustrations he has on his books but I was shocked when Ashli told me these were not children's books! As you all know I rarely read the summaries or the back of a book, I like to just dive in. So from first glance I assumed we were reading a middle grade novel. And then I quickly realized a book about death is not meant for kids
Even though it is a book about the afterlife, or what happens to people who have not yet crossed over, it was lovely. You would expect it to be heavier (there were moments) but this book was comforting in a way, like when it's my time it's going to be okay. And really, if there's a man waiting for me who will have the perfect cup of tea tailored to my preferences and life memories then it can’t be that bad.
Wallace is a man who was important, busy and wholly consumed by his career and money status. Naturally when you die, you have none of those things so you can imagine how lost, confused, and angry he was. Kline brings his signature wit and humour into the book and it creates an afterlife that you almost can't wait to be a part of.
Hugo is the ferryman, the person assigned to help Wallace come to terms with how he lived his life and move on. Hugo, to me, was the embodiment of Buddhist principles. He exhibits a gentle joy and humour while remaining neutral in order to allow the people that come to him to process their death the way they need to. He offers wisdom and advice that can be takeaways for everyone who reads the book. Death is about appreciating life and really learning how to live.
My only qualm with this book is that it was a bit long for the story. There really isn't much going on, especially since Wallace can't leave the grounds. At times it felt like the author was trying to hit the reader over the head with his philosophies concerning death and after a while it becomes repetitive.
Overall this story was the definition of “cozy”. I felt like each time I opened it I was curling up with friends. And what do we do when we meet up with good friends? We drink tea! For this book, I would want something comforting, something that would relax me and prepare me for a beautiful sleep. I would make an herbal blend for reading this book using lavender, mint, vervain leaf and rose petal. This is the same tea that I think I'd be served by Hugo in his little shop.
Ashli: I’m so glad that we are back! I’ve missed reading and reviewing in this beautiful form of communication where Erin and I can reach many other readers. It’s actually been harder to read this summer without having a purpose for doing so!
I was super excited to have TJ Klune’s next adult book as our first read back. The House in the Cerulean Sea was my first venture into his work and it grabbed my heart so hard with Klune’s wit and humour. Under the Whispering Door gave me hope that I’d love it just as much. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment.
Cerulean Sea was jam-packed with humour and a plot line that kept giving us some twists and turns as we hoped the unusual children would be completely safe and accepted into society. Whispering Door, however, was just a long long road of philosophical meaning and humour that didn’t really go anywhere. It was just page after page of the same old. I’d usually enjoy a nice relaxing romp through someone’s journey in this way, but I had too high of hopes after what I got out of Cerulean.
I agree with Erin… it made me fear death even less than I already do and I’d love to have someone ready to greet me with a nice cup of tea. Perhaps my TBR pile could come with me to my stop between Earth and the afterlife? Wouldn’t that be lovely!
I will say that I adored the journey that Wallace took and the humour that forced me to like the Scrooge of a man who was so cold-hearted at the beginning. The writing itself was nice and cozy, a warm blanket to comfort us in the grief that exudes from the book. I just really wish that there was more at stake for Wallace. But speaking of warm and cozy, I'm pretty certain that Hugo would be automatically serving me cup after cup of my favourite Titanic blend tea straight from Belfast. It's the ultimate comfort tea for me and always will be.