Under the Whispering Door beautifully depicts difficult life topics

TJ Klune’s fantastical novel follows the experiences of a man finally finding himself after death


DJ Gallegos

Klune’s cover art is well known. Its bright and playful look perfectly represents his magical writing about self discovery.

Arizona Lee, Editor-in-Chief

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune is a novel I’ve been wanting to read for months. Even though it isn’t something I would typically be drawn to (fantasy fiction has never been my favorite genre), I had some friends who suggested it to me over and over again, and I finally caved. Now, I’m absolutely in love with this book.

Under the Whispering Door follows a stoic and clinical man named Wallace Price through his experience with his own death. Wallace lives to make money, work endless hours at the law firm he owns, and put success after success on his life resume. He lives for his reputation.

But after his unexpected death, Wallace begins the process of crossing over what many think of as “the veil” after death. The process includes several others partially crossed over who, initially, are only there to help Wallace discover life after death. Wallace, being stubborn and utterly confused about what’s going on, pushes back against the assistance, refusing to die without at least living for the few days he has before he’s forced to cross over to his final death.

But Wallace soon develops relationships with people within this place (represented as a quaint tea shop called Charon’s Crossing) in between life and death. It isn’t long before he doesn’t want to go either way: back to his mundane, stressful life of making and spending absurd amounts of money or moving on to see what else the unknown process of death has in store for him.

Wallace finds love, loosens up, and realizes that his life was not ideal, as much as it felt that way while he was living what others saw as “the dream life”. He was wealthy and had popularity throughout his life, much of which he lost due to his selfishness and obsession with work.

The structure of the book draws readers in from the very beginning. The first few chapters come off as a little slow, but it picks up quickly. After just a few chapters, I was hooked.

I’ve never read anything by TJ Klune before, but I’ve always heard good things. And I can add to the praise of his novels — I was blown away.

The story itself holds this childlike wonder and perspective. But the writing gives it depth, an incredible plot line that tugs on your heartstrings, and teaches so many important lessons beyond the typical “life isn’t just about money”.

It almost felt like a modern, fantastical retelling of A Christmas Carol.

This novel depicts LGTBQ+ love in such a beautiful way. Wallace’s feelings weren’t overplayed or written in as the only major twist in the plot line, but it also wasn’t anywhere close to awkward, stiff, or forced. TJ Klune perfectly describes the feeling of Wallace’s giddy love and deep discovery of himself.

There’s a lot of stigma against YA writing, and though that sometimes applies, this novel didn’t fall into any of those stigmas throughout my own personal reading. The writing is minimalistic, but still conveys so many complicated emotions and difficult topics. Nothing is left shallow or unfinished.

I think many readers, especially young adults, can relate to the events and feelings in Wallace’s life.

I would highly suggest Under the Whispering Door. I would give this novel a 4/5 star rating.