Under the Whispering Door is a novel about death and love, as a man who was a self-assured workaholic in life gets a chance in death to explore more of who he could be. When Wallace Price meets a Reaper whilst watching his own funeral, he’s taken to a strange tea shop, Charon’s Crossing, where ferryman Hugo helps souls cross over once they’ve died. Rather than making peace, Wallace finds himself with more purpose, new friends, and even falling in love.
This book combines some more philosophical exploration of death and grief with some witty banter and forming of friendships. The plotline is quite predictable, though it was relieving to have a (slight spoiler) happy ending as I found myself invested in the characters (and, indeed, staying up too late to finish it). Hugo in particular is an interesting character, and not an almighty wise one, but someone trying to help people however he can. As someone who drinks a lot of tea I also liked the tea element of the plot, so though maybe the whole ‘the perfect tea for everyone’ thing is a bit twee.
The concept of someone who wasn’t so good in their life getting a chance to consider this in death is a classic one, and obviously this brings comparisons with The Good Place, though in this case there’s less about morality and more about dealing with death. This is explored through some side characters in different ways, though in the protagonists there’s more about protecting others and getting the chance to improve things even after your death.
Surprisingly considering the subject matter, I found this a light read with romance and friendship, but also an interesting fantasy-type premise. It’s more about human connection than deep philosophical ideas about death, but it explores interesting concepts and has a fun family dynamic too.