Review: Under the Whispering Door

T. J. Klune brings his signature warmth and heart to this touching novel that takes the spirit of The Midnight Library but makes it lighter, somewhat more magical, and packed with emotional punch.

When Wallace dies of a heart attack and watches his own funeral, he senses something is wrong. Then, when brought to Hugo – a ferryman between this life and the next – his entire perspective on how he’s lived his life is challenged.

Wallace is at first a bitter, cruel man, but in small steps becomes more moral and emotionally literate. The transformation is gradual, and though the setting of the book is in itself some kind of limbo between life and death, the story is always moving forwards. That limbo space is compelling and unsettling. Time is no object. The choice that looms over Wallace (to step through a door to the next life) feels like such a daunting unknown, it’s too big to confront – for both Wallace and reader. But his unexpected feelings for Hugo, the renowned ferryman everyone raves about, knock him for six.

Written with a depth of compassion, Klune’s novel is an anxious, delightful, and somehow comforting contemplation of a life beyond ours. It ponders many things about human existence, and how a change of perspective is always for the better.

By Rory McNeill