The Beauty of Letting Go in Under the Whispering Door


Under the Whispering Door

By T.J. Klune

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Speculative Fiction

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes 

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

Main Character of Color: No

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: Wallace Price is dead. He knows this, because he is at his own funeral. But what should be the end is only the beginning. Wallace is taken by a Reaper to a way station, a place for the dead to cross into what comes next. There he meets a ghost, a ghost dog, and the ferryman who will change Wallace’s life— Well, afterlife. Hugo is meant to help Wallace cross over, but there is so much more that will change for both of them.

A Little Bit of a Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The fact that this was an ARC in no way changes my review or how I felt about the book.

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

Look, 2020 was a year that required a lot of strength and heart to get through. One of the things that got me through it was books. I started this blog right at the beginning of 2020, not knowing what a comfort it would become as we collectively struggled against a global pandemic. It gave me an excuse to read and talk about books that meant a lot to me. My biggest hope for this blog is that it has helped those who read it feel excitement and joy at a time when those things feel hopeless. So often books found at the right time and place can change our lives, make them better, more full.

Under the Whispering Door is that book for me. This beautiful, hopeful, heart-breaker of a novel arrived when I was in desperate need of it. I had no idea that I was missing it, that this book was necessary for me. Having read it, my life has changed for the better. 

T.J. Klune’s masterful weaving of humor and heart tells the story of what happens when the end isn’t really the end. It shows the reader the beauty in what remains when we strip away the confines of who we were, who we think we have to be, and who we can become. After all, what better way to discover what matters than to have nothing left, not even one’s own life?

Not that these understandings come easily or sweetly. In fact, rage is as much a theme in this story as grief and hope. We see the impact of rage and hate on Wallace as well as every single character in the story. Death can enhance these feelings, leaving the recently departed feeling helpless. When we feel that helplessness, we lash out, causing more harm. We see this reflected throughout the novel, with one instance of pain leading to another.

Yet Under the Whispering Door does teach us how to break away from that pain. It shows us the effects of lashing out when we feel pained, it also shows us alternatives. It shows how painful life (or death) can be but also how sweet to finally free ourselves of the pain and hurt and rage that has consumed us. When we let those things go, we find our real homes. So Wallace and the entire ensemble discover their home, even in the midst of all their grief and heartbreak and anger. 

The power this book has to heal a reader’s heart is immense. I feel utterly changed by it, completely blown away by the story and the characters and the world. It has given me comfort in a time when I needed it, like a hug from a family member I haven’t seen in years. The book is out on September 21st, 2021, and if you are able, I suggest your pre-order your copy right away from your favorite local indie store. Might I suggest The Raven Bookstore the indie bookstore of my childhood?

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Under the Whispering Door? Leave a comment telling me your favorite tea. You can also find me on Insagram @booked.with.grace and Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@yasaminnb) for editing my posts.

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