Under the Whispering Door
by TJ Klune
Tor, 2021

Under the Whispering Door is a light fantasy and romance novel by the same author as the recently popular The House in the Cerulean Sea.

Wallace is not a particularly nice person, but that's okay, because he's dead now. He had no real friends at his funeral, no one left behind to miss him, and perhaps a few people were made happy by his death. Which is a bit annoying for him, as he has just now discovered that you don't disappear when you die, and you actually have to sit through all this funeral stuff, invisibly following your body around until it's buried.

Then the reaper takes you. In this case, his reaper is a chipper young lady named Mei (pronounced 'May') who is a bit of a hugger and not especially good at explaining this 'death' thing. It's her job to deliver him to the ferryman, who is apparently just some guy running a tea shop. A tea shop with ghosts in it. Wallace does not like tea, and is not too sure that he likes ghosts, either. Wallace is not very impressed with the afterlife.

The story alternates between Wallace learning random odds-and-ends about the afterlife and the (often annoying) people who interact with it, and him becoming a better person while waiting to make the final crossing. As mentioned, this is also a romance, but I'll avoid spoilers.

This is a slow-moving, touchy-feely book, probably a lot like I imagine a Hallmark Special movie or a cozy mystery would be. It hits hard on common tropes, and likes to double down on the foreshadowing. Despite that, it is well-written, and never slow enough to be boring. I did find parts of it a bit hokey, but that may be more a reflection on me than on the author. Overall, it's fine, but not quite what I was expecting, and not quite my type of book. It is perhaps best described as The House in the Cerulean Sea turned down a notch on the fantasy dial, and up a notch on the feels dial.