Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.
When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.
And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.
But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.
Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.
I don’t think I’ve encountered a lot of content in which the protagonist dies at the beginning of the story, but the concept was recently explored in the popular television series The Good Place. It isn’t my intention to suggest that UTWD is similar to TGP— in fact, Wallace doesn’t find himself in “the good place”, but rather a way station before taking one last great leap into the unknown.
In life, Wallace was a bit of a Scrooge. Okay, “a bit” is sorely underselling the point, but needless to say, the reader doesn’t spend very much time with Wallace while he’s alive. Quite frankly, it’s probably for the best. Furthermore, Wallace isn’t the easiest person to get along with when he first arrives at Charon’s Crossing.
Wallace’s transformation into a Better Person is a gradual process, although it is somewhat sped up by the crossing over deadline. Wallace begins to appreciate all the things he took for granted during his life, including love. Wallace makes friends and he helps people without expecting anything in return.
I can’t say anything more without giving too much away, but needless to say, this is a treasure of a book. The secondary characters are all richly developed. I could write an entire essay about the portrayal of The Manager, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone, so I’m not even going to tell you what they look like. Every character worked so well with the others, even when taking an adversarial position. They could have provided a solid point-of-view, but the narrative unfolds solely from Wallace’s perspective. After all, this is HIS story.
I would absolutely recommend Under the Whispering Door. It is a wretched cliché, but this book made me laugh and it made me cry, and that isn’t the easiest feat to accomplish in a novel. This is a delightful homage to the eternal question of what happens to us after we die. This book is tender and atmospheric, and it doesn’t even answer the question of what happens after we die, but that’s perfectly fine with me because I enjoyed the journey so much. This was such a lovely book, and I can’t say enough good things about it.
I received a digital ARC of this book from Tor/NetGalley.