Wallace Price is a successful, driven attorney, and a founding partner of a powerful law firm. He is a person of privilege with everything he wants or needs, and then suddenly, he isn’t. Wallace dies unexpectedly. He was not particularly old and was in fairly good health, although his heart clearly had the final word on that subject.
At his funeral he meets Mei, who is a Reaper. She explains his new “status” and escorts him from the city, in which he lived and worked, to a small town, and ultimately to a place called Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats. It is here that Mei introduces Wallace to Hugo Freeman, who is a ferryman, and will assist Wallace as he “transitions” to what will follow.
During his time at Charon’s Crossing, Wallace will discover things he’s never known, or long forgotten. He will realize how badly he had prioritized his life and how sometimes it is the smallest things that have the greatest impact on others. After Wallace Price dies, he finally learns to live.
In this novel, TJ Klune explores not only what lies “beyond the veil" but the paths we choose along our journey. He has constructed a modestly complicated system for moving the dead from our reality to another, which allows individuals to acclimate to their new reality (being dead) before they step into whatever is next. His system, however, also has rules that if not followed may lead to devastating complications. Klune’s constructs are refreshingly void of religious overtones, focusing primarily on an individual’s ability to accept their death and willingness to move on, rather than more parochial views of reward/punishment.
Where the novel really shines is its cast of characters. All of Klune’s characters are charming in their own ways and each is struggling with their own demons. Klune clearly has fun putting Wallace through the paces of learning how to be a ghost, where he repeatedly creates for himself increasingly humiliating results while attempting to learn the skills he will need to “live” as a ghost in Hugo’s tea shop.
Just as Charles Dickens warned the world to mend their ways in A Christmas Carol, TJ Klune makes his case, in Under the Whispering Door, for readers to examine their priorities, consider their choices, and take advantage of the time they have before it is lost. He offers a quiet and thoughtful exploration of life, death, everything in-between, and beyond.
Read an interivew with the author.