Thursday, December 30, 2021

Fiction Review: Under the Whispering Door

For the past year and a half, I have been hearing rave reviews of The House on the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune, so I jumped at the chance to listen to and review the audiobook of Klune's latest novel, Under the Whispering Door. And when I heard one reviewer describe this new novel as "A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place," I was convinced. Now I see why everyone loves this author! This funny, tender novel about the afterlife was a completely unique reading/listening experience--and a very enjoyable one.

Wallace has not lived a good life. He has worked non-stop at his law firm, his marriage failed, and well, he's just not a very nice person. As the novel opens, he's firing his devoted assistant who's been going through a family crisis. Then, suddenly, Wallace dies of a heart attack. He finds himself sitting in a church at his own funeral--which is very poorly attended--dressed embarrassingly in the ragged jeans, old t-shirt, and flip-flops he had on when he died, when a young woman named Mei approaches him. She explains that he's dead and that she is his Reaper. After a lot of questions and anger, Wallace allows Mei to guide him away. She takes him to a strange-looking tea shop in a remote town. Hugo is the owner of the tea shop, and he tells Wallace that he is there to guide him to ... the next step. He will answer all of Wallace's questions, and when Wallace is ready, there is a door on the 4th floor of the building that he can walk through to whatever comes next. Hugo and Mei are both live people, but they can see and talk to Wallace because they have special abilities. The other two residents of the tea shop--Hugo's grandfather and his dog--are dead, like Wallace. The tea shop is a way-station for the recently died and also an ordinary tea shop during the day. As Wallace stays there with Hugo and his family, he slowly begins to discover all that he missed out on in his life and to grow and change.

I'm sure you can tell from the description that this book has a very original premise! There is so much more to it than this simple plot summary, but one of the best things about this novel is discovering its delights for yourself, with surprises around every corner. It's about life, the afterlife, and even love, and the story is told with warmth and humor. I often laughed out loud while listening, as Wallace and the others get to know each other, and Wallace gradually comes to terms with his death--and the way he lived his life. One scene when a "psychic" visits the cafe to record a video is particularly amusing, but there are laughs in almost every chapter. In spite of the humor, though, there is also deep emotion here and even love, as Wallace and the other characters explore what it means to be human. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this thoughtful, funny, delightful novel.

384 pages, Tor Books

Macmillan Audio

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible - this one is excellent on audio, narrated by Kirt Graves.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



Or you can order Under the Whispering Door from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. I've been seeing this around the blogosphere and somehow hadn't read a complete review of it. It sounds charming!

    1. It was! Warm, funny, and poignant.

  2. Now I want to read something by this author, too. So many books, so little time. Sigh.

    1. I know! I'd definitely recommend it on audio.