When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.
Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.
But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.
5 out of 5!
Once again, TJ Klune succeeds in ripping my damn heart out, stomping it flat, then puts it all back together with a fantastic ending.
Wallace Price is a terrible person, and he dies. And no one misses him. I don’t think that it’s giving anything away that there is a terrific redemption arc for him, but along the way there are just so many amazing characters. Mei, Nelson, and Apollo the dog all help Wallace in his journey, and are joined by the enigmatic Manager, the ridiculous Desdemona Tripplethorne, and poor Nancy, stuck in a cycle of grief. For me, though, it is the tender relationship with Hugo, gentle, understated, empathetic-to-a-fault Hugo, was the very best part of the story.
Klune thoughtfully includes a content warning at the beginning about frank discussion of death, and suicide. And it’s warranted – it hits hard sometimes, and as someone whose husband was taken from him suddenly, it hits far too close to home. Still, it was worth it. I very much appreciated Klune’s secular take on death, not denying any religious ideologies, but merely saying that we don’t know, and we never will know until it is our time to find out.
I listened to the audiobook version of this, and Kirt Graves and TJ Klune are an absolutely perfect pairing. I will always hear the characters in Klune’s Green Creek series in Kirt’s voices, and his characterizations of Wallace and Hugo here are absolutely spot on as well.
This is such a great book, and I recommend it highly!