Under the Whispering Door
Klunes stories are fun, frivolous, he seduces you with the raw charm of the word and they heft some seriously emotional narratives in with the froth. In this book we meet the deeply unpleasant Wallace, a wretched man who’s just died. We meet him as he’s collected by the Reaper at his own funeral and then taken to a tea shop – run by Hugo – in a village called Charon’s Crossing. He’s given one week to pass through the door to the other side, so sets about living a lifetime in just seven days. A charmingly crepuscular start to a rather touching tale of the value of second chances and making the best of the time we have left. This is Queer redemption, a song of opening up, a plea for living, (even though you might be dead), and a soft but careful exploration of grief, although this is done sotto voice whilst the plot loudly does all the fun heavy lifting to keep us occupied turning the pages and laughing.
It’s a love story, a story of change, of daftness and about seeing the chains that bind us, following them to their anchors and casting off, freed from historical bindings and moving on. In this case literally. Wallace develops feelings for Hugo. Hugo works as the Ferry Man , getting souls ready for their journey. He himself is bound by habit and convention as he preps souls the for next stage in their existence: stepping through the mysterious Whispering Door. This tender, challenging love story is perfectly handled, and although problematic, like all true love is, the hope of loves recovery is tremendous. Klune leaves enough mystery hanging around to make this world believable and is tender in his daftness, in a kind of Douglas Adams way, which make space for the heavy stuff.
The book explores the stages of bitterness, anger and grief in an offhand but guided way but that’s not the drive here, it’s about people finding ways to make the most of the time they have, and finding the power to enable themselves to change, and love being worth the risk of huge change.
Throw in a ghost doggy, an impish spectral Grandad and a rather swish tearoom at the end of existence and this is an uplifting, inspirational tale, shot through with a solid gold sea of Queer love, guaranteed to bring a smile, even to the hardest of hearts -like mine.
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