Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune Reviewed by Carol Kelly
I really wanted to love this book. Not such a promising start for a book review, but Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune was a confusing disappointment to me and would have been a DNF had I not wanted to add it to my Goodreads 2022 Reading Challenge tally with a clear conscience.
Walter Price, corporate attorney and self-described “ruthless shark”, has just died of a heart attack and finds himself being lead by an apprenticed reaper who says things like “dude” and “hate to be a bummer, man”, from his own funeral to a quaint little tea shop where he must contemplate the life he’s just exited and pass through a magic door into the next. He’s given permission to take his time and enter the next life “when he’s ready”. This gives Walter enough time to regret the past pain he’s inflicted, form close, meaningful friendships with the tea shop inhabitants including a zombie-like character named Cameron, become a profoundly selfless person, fall deeply in love, and learn to enjoy menial tea shop tasks such as doing dishes and wiping counters.
The story jumps from one deeply philosophical scene/conversation to the next with somewhat tired, slapstick-ish comedy and inspirational musings such as – “There’s more to life than dirty socks” and “It’s okay not to be okay” and “I never really thought about death until I died” sprinkled in. Walter’s character transforms in a matter of weeks, which isn’t quite unbelievable in and of itself when you consider that he’s just experienced death. However, he morphs into a completely unrecognizable person with little explanation as to why? What really bothered me about this story, though, is that Walter is assured on multiple occasions, as are others, that inside the peaceful light emanating from under The Door are people who have gone before, both the nice ones as well as the not-so-nice ones. Walter’s even warned to think about how he’ll handle seeing his emotionally abusive parents once he enters. At the same time it’s emphasized again and again that nobody really knows what awaits any of us on the other side, including the weird little boy/stag called The Manager who seems to be in charge of the whole process.
I know this book boasts a 4 1/2 star rating on Goodreads and Amazon, so if it’s on your TBR list, I encourage you to read it and make up your own minds. It could just boil down to the whole tea shop thing for me. Had the setting been a quaint little Starbucks . . .