Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.
I'm just trying to light up the world as much as I can one SciFi/paranormal/fantasy/space opera/time travel book at a time.
I knew I HAD to have TJ Klune's next book as soon as I finished reading the very last page his previous book...which I absolutely love with every fiber of my being... called The House in the Cerulean Sea. That book had me feeling the gamut of Feels and those characters... ohhhh those characters... man can Klune write a good character!! Anyway, this book made me feel (almost) all of those (often) pesky things called Emotions just not on the same scale WHICH is fair since this book delves into darker and headier topics such as: Death, Grief, Hopelessness, Powerlessness, Suicide, Contrition, Depression and all manor of Dejectedness. I apologize for that made up word but it fits... so I think I'll keep it.
Now, Under The Whispering Door had much of what's needed to be considered a memorable read for me. There was a unique premise that was both palatable and easy to grasp. There were loveable/quirky characters. The writing was touching and I even cried a bit... ok, maybe I cried a bit more than a bit (especially towards the end). The dialogue was good but not as organic as it was in his last book. It might not be fair to compare the two books but it's hard not to when The House in the Cerulean Sea was mind-boggling amazing... I still think about it randomly and smile.
Okay, back to the book at hand... the crux of Under The Whispering Door tackled the VERY difficult (and often extremely polarizing) topic of "What Happens After We Die"? I really enjoyed Klune's ideas on the subject and I loved how he incorporated a crew of (loveable yet sadly not quite morally gray enough) characters that had varying degrees of involvement (powers?) in aiding those on the road to the After-Life. I'll start with management. I felt that the Manager who oversees all was not relatable or likeable, which was most likely written to read as such since this reader is a mere human BUT His(?)... its(?) whole demeanor and almost complete lack of empathy for we creatures in his care was off-putting and it just felt "Wrong" somehow. Another near miss for me was our MC Wallace. Wallace was an almost instantaneous convert from Lifetime Selfish Morally Bankrupt Douche ---> loving, empathetic, caring, brave and selfless being. His rapid transformation felt unlikely and disingenuous which made suspending reality with respect to (new) Wallace a bit difficult. Of course then there were the times when he was so charming I wanted to squeezly squish him in a great big bear hug and pinch his cheeks raw... I loathed him, I loved him, (at times) I couldn't care less about him SOOO Wallace was a wash for me. The other characters however fell more squarely in the Absolutely Cherish category. I adored Mei and of course our Ferryman Hugo as well as Hugo's very charming, rapscallion grandad Nelson. I also found myself enjoying each and every part with Cameron in it... what a diverse and textured cast TJ gave us!
Then there's the beautific LGBTQ representation. It's inspiring and understated all at the same time. I especially love how Klune manages to make every type of Loving relationship (whether it be the love of a friend, family member or paramor) feel "Right" even when I have no idea how things went from indifference---> amorous Kismet... 0 - 180 in what felt like three heartbeats' time. One minute he's a stubborn ass and the next minute he's a love interest? I don't know... I merely went with the flow even when the pace was jerky. BUT at the end of this one of a kind ride I found that I was quite satisfied. SO even with some pacing issues, minor character annoyances and some sections that came off as cliche... it all sorted itself out in the end.
This highly anticipated book came right off of the heels of Klune's WILDLY successful previous book, The House In The Cerulean Sea, making conditions prime for comparison between the two. Is that fair? Probably not but I found I couldn't help myself. When you love a book so much it hurts, the author that gifted you with said book can feel larger than life to you... a veritable God, right? Well this author might not be God but he writes about matters such as divinity, higher Beings, what The Call of the Afterlife must be like, Love in the face of impossible situations and what makes a life Good and Worthy ... as if he has some kind of inside information we don't have and he even does so with flair. Don't get me wrong, Klune isn't flowery or verbose... his writing sits snuggly in the Goldilocks Zone, it's juuust right.
NOW, is this book worth your time and emotional investment? Will it play your heartstrings like a literary virtuoso? I say yes on both accounts BUT it is not without its hiccups like spotty pacing and some cliché moments WHICH makes me slightly sad yet still VERY thankful to have been able to get my hands on it at all. Yes there were a few clunky, sluggish bits but the flow never stuttered to a halt or made me feel like skimming so it all worked out in the end
Bottom line: this book is good... a tad slow in places and a touch cliche at times but otherwise this is a solid (tear jerking) read!
*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***