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THE BOOK THAT MADE ME REFLECT ON MYSELF AND THE BEYOND

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

A year ago, I made a couple of resolutions. One of them was to buy at least two physical books per month, because… what else do you do when you have adult money, right? The first two books I bought in that first month were The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune. I was very excited to start reading them. The first one is still a sore subject that I won’t even get into, but the second novel made me feel so inspired. Never would I ever have expected to fall in love with this author’s writing style. By now, I have read four of his books and I’m waiting for the next one. While I always try to not have any expectations when I read a novel, I knew that when TJ Klune announced that he was releasing a story about death and the afterlife I had to drop everything to preorder it. And now, as I finished the book, I quickly started typing my thoughts because I needed to write an article about it. Enjoy! 

Under The Whispering Door tells the story of Wallace Price, a cold-hearted and workaholic owner of a firm. His life changes in the blink of an eye: one moment he’s at the office, and in another, a Reaper has come to collect him from his own funeral. When Reaper Mei leads him to a strange tea shop, he meets the owner, Hugo, who tells him that he will help him cross over. That definitely makes him accept that he is, in fact, dead. When Walace is given a short amount of time to get to what’s on the other side, he decides to start living to become a better person. 

Under The Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.”

TJ Klune has the ability to write complex characters that feel accurate and so relatable. I first noticed this in his other story called The House in the Cerulean Sea with Linus Baker, its protagonist. While he was not as bad as Wallace, he also changed for the better. In Under The Whispering Door, Wallace Price is, indeed, an asshole, and this is literally the word the other characters use to describe him in the novel. He is very dislikeable at the beginning, but if I’m being honest, I loved him right away because he was so egocentric that it became amusing. His inner monologues and how he made literally anything about himself made me giggle a lot. However, even with his absurd comments and how annoyingly narcissistic he could be, I could feel myself caring about this character more and more as I kept reading. The character development felt smooth, gracious, and slow, giving it the realistic touch it needed. It’s not everyday that you wake up dead and experience your own funeral. It is uncommon to get told that there is no God and that things are more complicated than the mere human concepts you’ve known. You rarely get told that you have to cross over a door that takes you to a place that not even the ferryman, Hugo, knows where it leads. Give poor Wallace a break!  

“There’s beauty in the chaos, if you know where to look at it.” – The Manager

If I’m writing a book review, I try to annotate what I like, what made me laugh, its unforgettable quotes and literally anything that makes it easier for me to remember the little details. However, as soon as I opened Under The Whispering Door and read the dedication, I decided that I wouldn’t annotate because it felt different. A book’s dedication is one of my favorite parts of reading a novel, and this one was no exception. However, as soon as I read it, I knew I  was going to read a personal story, with raw emotions, built from vulnerable pieces of the author. It’s not that this story is sad in the ways you think: death does not have to be final, it can be a beginning or another step to your soul’s journey. I would describe this novel as hopeful. Each character makes you think, reflect and analyze. There’s romance in this book, but it’s more than that; it’s a story about life, death, opportunities, and love. 

Hugo, with his words, carried a wisdom that was beyond himself. His job was to help people cross over. He tried to never lie, he was always true to himself and to others, while maintaining his beautiful emphatic self. Hugo reminds me of how it feels to be hugged at the end of a very difficult day. Another beautiful, yet complex character, that helped Wallace to get to know a part of himself that he was repressing for a long time. Of course, because it’s me, I have to talk about their romance too… It was heartbreakingly beautiful. I could notice how much they wanted each other, but one was alive and the other one wasn’t, how could that work out? While the two of them were so precious together, the secondary characters stole my heart. Mei, the reaper, was witty but kind, straightforward, but caring. Apollo, the dog, was an amazing and important character, the best boy! If you do not agree with me, we can’t be friends. Anyways, funny enough, the character who actually made me cry was Hugo’s grandfather, Nelson. I can say a few reasons why, but they feel too personal. What I can say is that I wish that every queer kid out there could have a grandfather like Nelson, who makes you feel like you belong and loves you as you are. These characters build a home together, and oh, I am such a sucker for this trope. If a book contains a Found Family trope, count me inーchances are I’m going to love it.

“It’s okay not to know, we don’t know most things and we never will.” – Hugo

I wouldn’t describe myself as a selfless person. It’s not that I am always selfish, but sometimes I have trouble with letting things go. I try as much as I can to be the best version of myself, but I am human. This is why I found myself relating to Wallace, I was aching and grieving his death alongside him. I know, it sounds a little bit dramatic, but here’s my reasoning. Wallace Price was a man that worked day and night, he didn’t get to live his life; he was just existing. So, when I read this story, I reflected on my life and wondered if I was actually living it or just existing. While my life isn’t like Wallace’s, this pandemic made my life stop for a moment and then slowed it down. Days started passing without me coming to this realization, and studying online did not help. Thanks to TJ Klune, his words and his characters made me realize that I’ve been existing, not living as I should be. Regardless of what religion you believe in, none of us know for sure what happens after we die. Some may think that we will find peace, others that we will reincarnate. The possibilities are endless. If I find myself, at the brink of life or death, in a strange place, just as Wallace did, I wish for me to have learned my mistakes, so I get to look back and say that I lived, I loved and I gave everything. 

Nahiria I. Rivera Dieppa is a student from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She's studying Creative Writing with a second concentration in Public Relations and Publicity. She loves her books more than anything, and is passionate about music.
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