Blaine book club review: “Under the Whispering Door” by T.J. Klune

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Reading “Under the Whispering Door” by T.J. Klune is, as the name suggests, like curling up in a cozy chair with a hot cup of tea. Some books inform the reader with new knowledge, but Klune’s writing inspires the reader to live more fully.

Wallace, a career-minded lawyer with little time for family, friends or leisure, suddenly finds his life thrown upside down. Death puts an abrupt end to Wallace’s ambitions, and as he navigates a transitory phase between here and the hereafter, he must reevaluate what it really means to live one’s life, even after it’s gone. Through this journey he finds new friends and family that bring new meaning and purpose.

Klune’s ability to create heartfelt and endearing characters is on full display. I dare you to read this novel and not fall in love with Wallace, Hugo, Mei, Nelson and Apollo. At the heart of the story is Wallace’s journey as a character, and this is portrayed in beautiful and relatable ways.

The bulk of the story’s setting is Charon’s Crossing, a tea shop whose purveyor, Hugo, is a loveable ferryman for the dead. Let’s just say, as a devoted coffee drinker, this book made me reach instead for a cup of tea. What higher praise can I offer?

I longed to spend a luxurious day relaxing in Hugo’s tea shop and was saddened to leave it when I finished the book. But truly, it’s the characters who inhabit Charon’s Crossing that bring it to life, and this tale lives and dies on the strength of Klune’s characters.

Fans of Klune’s earlier work, “The House in the Cerulean Sea,” will note many narrative and stylistic similarities. For instance, Klune, once again, shines as he revels in the idiocracy of bureaucratic structures, portraying absurdities in a Douglas Adams-esque way.

Similarly, humor, pathos and romance pull at the reader’s emotions and drive the story onward. This is a wonderful journey of discovery, change and fulfillment, and a rewarding read.

“Under the Whispering Door” is the July selection for the Books and Bites book group. Join Books and Bites at Blaine Public Library at 1 p.m. Friday, July 19 for an afternoon of community and lively conversation. Visit wcls.org to find “Under the Whispering Door” and other similar stories.

Jonathan Jakobitz is an avid reader and the branch manager of Blaine Public Library.

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