Under the Whispering Door

TJ Klune | Fiction, 2021

376 pages


I love his characters; I love his magic and whimsy; and how he suspends reality; I love his gayness.

In this TJ Klune, Wallace Price is a mean, unkind attorney who dies suddenly of a heart attack.  Mei, the Reaper, comes to Wallace's funeral to collect him.  The only other people at his funeral are the partners in his law firm and his ex-wife.  A sad showing!  Wallace crosses over into a holding place ... a tea shop ... in which he transforms himself from an angry being into a kind one and prepares for the final crossing into whatever is next.

So, yes, there is un-realism and magic (some of the characters, including the endearing dog Apollo, are ghosts, and some are still-alive human beings.)  We witness Wallace's transformation, and, though the novel is a touch saccharin and maybe a little too long, still it is playful and engaging.  It will inspire you to a range of emotions and thoughts about death, kindness, transformation, relationships.  Klune interjects humor into this topic, which could be maudlin.  Here is a place I laughed aloud.  Wallace, in his ghost form, is moving the planchette on a Ouija board for a cruel and obnoxious visitor to the tea shop. It is quite difficult for a ghost to learn to move items!

""What are you, ten?' Nelson asked, though he seemed to be fighting a smile. 'You need to be scarier.  Tell her you're Satan, and you're going to eat her liver.'

'This is Satan,' the Thin Man says as the planchette moved.  'I am going to eat your diver.'

'Liver!' Nelson said.  'Liver.'

'I'm trying,' Wallace said through gritted teeth.  'It's slippery!'" (Pg 170)

Oddly, it strikes me that this novel would make for an excellent play. Except for one very brief moment when Wallace wants to escape death and runs off into town, the entire novel takes place in one house where Mei, Nelson, Hugo, and Apollo live.  It would require one single stage set ... all the great action that occurs, occurs right there in the house and tea shop.

Though this book doesn't quite live up to its successor, The House in the Cerulean Sea, it is still a delightful read.  I am going to pick up another TJ Klune and explore this interesting author further. Yes, I recommend Under the Whispering Door.

October 2022