The Quick Recap and Chapter-by-Chapter Summary for Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.
For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile’s review of Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune.
The two-paragraph version: Wallace is an unpleasant and selfish man who dies. He is brought to a tea house where the ferryman, Hugo, is there to help Wallace process his life and enter the doorway to the afterlife when he’s ready. At the tea house, Wallace befriends the others there and learns to care for and sacrifice for others. He also develops romantic feelings for Hugo.
When Wallace overstays his time, the Manager (a god-like entity) gives Wallace a hard 7-day limit before he needs to move on. During that time, Wallace makes amends with his ex-wife (he’s bisexual) and helps a grieving mother find closure. He also helps to rescue Cameron, who was a “Husk” (a ghost who had lost his humanity), which were previously thought to be hopeless cases. When it’s time to leave, the Manager agrees to let Hugo continue to work on rescuing other Husks, and the Manager decides to bring Wallace back to life so he can work as a Reaper (herding ghosts to the tea house) alongside Hugo.
Wallace Price is an unpleasant, calculating and selfish lawyer who dies of a heart attack. At his (sparsely attended) funeral, he’s greeted by Mei, a Reaper, who is there to bring him to the ferryman, Hugo Freeman. This is Mei’s first outing as a Reaper working solo.
Hugo and Mei run a tea shop called Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats while also helping ghosts like Wallace to move on. There’s a door on the fourth’s floor that leads to the afterlife whenever Wallace is ready.
Meanwhile, Wallace process his thoughts here at the tea shop, but he cannot leave or else he will begin to disintegrate. He’s also tethered to Hugo via a cable that attaches to each of them and keeps Wallace from floating away. The ghosts of Hugo’s grandfather, Nelson, and dog, Apollo, reside at the tea shop as well.
Wallace initially tries to run away, but he comes across a horrifying creature. Hugo explains that the creature is Cameron, who is a ghost that ran away and became a Husk, which is what happens if you disintegrate and lose your humanity. Later, Wallace comes across Cameron again and when Cameron grabs at him, Wallace sees Cameron’s memories. He learns that Cameron had an unhappy childhood, but fell in love with a man named Zach. When Zach died three years later, Cameron became depressed and killed himself.
Meanwhile, during the day, Hugo runs the shop while Mei cooks in the kitchen. There’s an unhappy woman named Nancy who visits the shop regularly. At night, they all talk to Wallace to try to help him process his life. Wallace regrets now he neglected his ex-wife Naomi and let their marriage fail. He also thinks about how he had no friends and was not a nice person.
As Wallace gets to know the others, he and Hugo start to develop feelings for one another. He also learns that an entity named The Manager hired Hugo for this job soon after Hugo’s parents died in a car accident. As for Mei, she is a medium, and The Manager taught her how to navigate going back and forth from her human and spiritual self when she took on the job as a Reaper. Finally, Nelson has been dead for a few years, but he has resisted moving on since he wants to ensure that Hugo is happy and in good hands before he does. And Apollo has also resisted moving on since Hugo’s still alive.
One day, a woman named Desdemona comes to the store with her two associates. Mei gets very upset since she dislikes Desdemona and considers her a con artist. Desdemona is someone who does fake séances and pretends to sense spirits (and collects money for her services). One of the people she conned was Nancy (the unhappy woman who frequently visits). Wallace and Nelson decide to scare Desdemona off, and Mei feels grateful to them for doing so.
Eventually, Wallace learns that there was a Reaper before Mei who was not very good. When Cameron ran off, it was that Reaper who instructed Hugo not to follow him, resulting in Cameron turning into a Husk. Also, there was an incident involving a young girl ghost named Lea, who missed her mother, Nancy. Mei thinks Nancy must have minor spiritual powers since Nancy managed to track Lea’s ghost down at the tea house. Upon seeing her mother, Lea started freaking out. Instead of letting them calm her down, the Reaper forced Lea into the next world before she was ready. Her mother Nancy sensed something and continues back hoping to feel her again.
On Wallace’s 22nd day there, an angry ghost named Alan is brought to the tea shop by Mei. Alan was murdered in an alley by a person he owed money to. Alan is resistant to moving on, despite all their best efforts to help him. When he learns about the story involving Nancy and Lea, he tries to cause a scene with Nancy.
When the health inspector (Harvey) drops by, Alan notices a resemblance between Harvey and the man who killed them, though he’s aware they’re not the same person. Alan goes on a rampage and starts messing with Harvey. Finally, the Manager shows up and freezes time. He forces Alan to move on and he tells Wallace that he’s had enough time to process his death and that he needs to resolve his affairs in the next seven days, or else he’ll be forced to move on then as well.
Knowing he must make peace with giving up his happy existence at the tea shop, Wallace quickly goes through the stages of grief, but comes to accept his fate. He has Hugo call his ex-wife to apologize on his behalf for his actions and to try to make some type of amends. He and Hugo also take a trip to a spot where Wallace’s father used to take him as a boy. They also enact a plan to use Wallace’s ghostly presence to let Nancy know that Lea is safe and has moved on, so Nancy can find some closure.
Finally, when Wallace comes across Cameron again, he realizes that Cameron wants his help. He senses that Cameron is lost. When he reaches out to touch Cameron, he sees his memories of how the previous Reaper had been cold and scared Cameron, which his why he ran away from the tea shop and disintegrated. Wallace decides to do something selfless and he removes his tether (which connects him to Hugo) and attaches it to Cameron instead, not knowing what it will mean for him.
When Wallace awakes, he learns that Cameron is fine now, and that Mei managed to wrangle him (Wallace) from floating away by using Apollo’s dog leash. When he talks with Hugo, they realize that perhaps it’s possible there are more Husks that could be saved and that the Manager misled Hugo by making him think that they were lost causes.
When the last day arrives, the Manager shows up to ensure Wallace moves on, and they use the opportunity to confront him about the Husks. He declines to explain to them why he did what he did or what his plan is (saying that it’s beyond their comprehension and that everything worked out), but he reluctantly agrees to let them attempt to rescue the other Husks in existence.
Finally, as Wallace lets go and is about to pass through the doorway to the unknown afterlife, the Manager makes the impulsive decision to bring Wallace back to life. He says that he’s curious to see how this will go, and that Wallace will be working as a second Reaper alongside Mei and Hugo, since they’ll have a lot of work on their hands with all the Husks and whatnot. Afterwards, Wallace and Hugo finally kiss.
In the Epilogue, Mei has been training Wallace as a Reaper, and the trio has continued to save Husks and to help other spirits as well. Nelson understands that Hugo is happy and is in good hands, and he decides it’s time to move on. Hugo encourages Apollo to go with him, and they both go through the doorway together. The book ends with Mei telling them about the next ghost they’ll be working with.
Wallace Price is a law firm partner at a Moore, Price, Hernandez & Worthington who is cold and calculating and only cares about profitability. One of the firm paralegals, Patricia Ryan, was crying in the supply closet, and she thinks that Wallace has brought her into his office to check on her because he cares. However, his only intention is to fire her. He tells her it’s because she filed a brief two hours late. He also cancels the scholarship her daughter is getting from the firm. Afterwards, he has security escort her out and puts her out of his mind.
Two days later, he Wallace Price dies.
After his death, Wallace suddenly finds himself at his own funeral, though no one else can see him. The funeral is attended by only five people. Wallace recognizes four of them. His ex-wife, Naomi Byrne, who he’d had an acrimonious divorce with is there. His three fellow law firm partners that he’d started the firm with are there. They talks about how it’s a sad day, but they also laugh about what an asshole he’d been.
There is also a young Asian woman there he doesn’t recognize, and a priest soon enters as well. When the priest asks anyone if they want to say anything, only Naomi gets up and talks about what a terrible and neglectful husband he’d been.
Meanwhile, Wallace thinks about how he’d felt a pain in his arm, some nausea and a “burning sensation” in his chest, but he’d thought that it was just some leftover chili he ate. However, he ended up collapsing in his office.
Finally, the young Asian girl comes to talk to him. She identifies herself as Meijing/”Mei”, and she tells him that she’s a Reaper. He had a heart attack and died and now she’s here to help him make his transition and to ensure that he gets to the ferryman, Hugo.
With a snap of her fingers, they are suddenly transported to the ceremony as they bury his body. Mei then explains that this is her first time doing this solo, but she reassures him that she’s had plenty of training.
When Mei snaps her fingers again, they now find themselves on a paved road. When a car drives by, it crosses clean through Wallace’s body. There’s also now a large silver fishhook attached to a cable that’s lodged in his chest. Mei explains that it’s a connection that’s keeping him grounded and that it leads to Hugo.
When Wallace finally understands that he’s dead, a memory rises up of himself as a kid with his parents telling him about how his grandfather had died of cancer. His parents had been upset, and Wallace had been uncomfortable with being upset, so he’d bottled up his feelings inside.
Now, as he and Mei walk, they end up in a quiet village on a cobblestone road lined with streetlamps. Outside the village, they come across a sign that says “CHARON’S CROSSING TEA AND TREATS”. Mei explains that the name is “a bit of a joke”.
Charon is the name of the ferryman in Hades (“who carries souls of the newly deceased who had received the rites of burial, across the river Acheron (or in some later accounts, across the river Styx) that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead”) in Greek Mythology.
A little further down the road, they come to a tea shop. It looks alike a large house with a wraparound porch with parts of it stacked on top of one another. Wallace see that the cable attached to him leads in through the front door of the house. Wallace is initially reluctant to go inside since it looks unstable, but he follows Mei in nevertheless.
Like the outside, inside the house is also a “mishmash of architectural atrocities” and the place feels like “a fever dream”. An excited black dog named Apollo comes running out. Mei explains that the dog is also dead.
Then, Wallace meets an old man that’s sitting in a high-backed chair in front of a fire. He has dark skin, a white afro and bushy eyebrows. Upon meeting him, Wallace tries to negotiate with him to be alive again, but Hugo merely makes a fool of him. It turns out the old man is Nelson, who is merely pretending to be Hugo.
Instead, a younger black man, Nelson’s grandson, soon walks in, who turn out to be Hugo Freeman. He introduces himself as the ferryman and offers Wallace a cup of tea.
Wallace notices immediately that Hugo (who is 30) is graceful and deliberate. When Wallace drinks the tea that Hugo offers him, Wallace sees himself as a kid in his childhood home with his mother baking holiday treats. Then, it flashes to a memory of him learning about his mother’s death — cancer that metastasized in her lungs.
Afterwards, Hugo explains that he’s not the ferryman for everyone, and most people get sent to a ferrywoman in the city. However, some people get sent to him, though the exact criteria for that is unclear to him.
Hugo explains to Wallace that he’s a ghost and that whether or not he can do things like pick stuff up or touch things has a lot to do with what his expectations are for whether he can do those things. So, he has to learn to focus his mind.
However, Hugo talks, Wallace gets increasingly agitated about his current circumstances. Mei warns him to stop, but Wallace turns and runs out.
Wallace goes through the door and runs outside and back onto the road, though he feels the hook in his chest pull sharply taut. He comes across a gas station, and Hugo and Mei soon follow him in. Wallace then notices that his skin is flaking off and Mei seems concerned, but Wallace bolts off again anyway, though an empty field and towards a neighborhood. As he runs, he realizes he seems to be disintegrating.
Wallace then sees a man standing in the street, the sight of whom gives him a chill. However, he approaches the man anyway. When the man turns around, Wallace realizes he has made a mistake. The man seems like something dead, horrifying, dangerous and feral.
Before anything further can happen, Hugo catches up to them. Hugo tells the horrifying man, Cameron, that he can’t have Wallace. Hugo then tells Mei to take Wallace back.
Back at the house, Nelson tells Wallace that he’s lucky to still be intact after coming across Cameron. He tells him that the “world is for the living”. Trying to stay out there would cause him to lose himself and go insane — “another form of death”, eventually becoming like Cameron.
Nelson also informs Wallace that a staircase at the back of this house leads to the fourth floor. There, there’s a door that leads to a place where he’ll only know peace. Wallace then asks Nelson why he (Nelson) hasn’t moved on, and though Nelson declines to explain his reasons, except to say that it’s his choice to stay.
When Hugo returns, Mei asks if he thinks the “Manager” will show up, and Nelson explains to Wallace that the Manager is Hugo and Mei’s boss, who is a “nasty fellow”.
Wallace insists he’s not ready to go through the door, and Hugo promises that he won’t take him through it until he’s ready. Instead, he leads him somewhere else.
In the backyard, Hugo shows Wallace a nice garden filled with tea plants and lit with string lights. Hugo talks about how growing tea plants requires a lot of time and patience to grow correctly, and Wallace suspects that Hugo is speaking in metaphors, though Hugo denies it. Hugo also says that he likes talking to his plants.
Hugo then talks about how part of his gig here is to choose the right tea for people. For example, he’d gotten the “feeling” that Wallace needed peppermint tea.
When Wallace talks about wanting to be alive again, Hugo refers to a psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, who was the person to identify the five stages of grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
When Apollo comes bounding in, Hugo explains that Apollo and is also a ghost, but dogs don’t tend to need help crossing unlike people since they are uncomplicated. He also says that Apollo was his service dog since he used to suffer from depression and anxiety. He says that he’s tried to lead Apollo out of here, but Apollo choses to stay with him.
Wallace keeps insisting that he’s being trapped here and chained to Hugo, but Hugo says that Wallace has a choice to move on. He also says that the cable is a “red threat of fate” or a tether, not a shackle. He warns him that removing it if he’s outside will cause him to lose his humanity and flake away until he’s merely a shell of himself. Hugo also tells Wallace that he doesn’t need sleep anymore.
Later, Nelson sits Wallace down by the fire, and he gives him another lesson on how he needs to “learn to trick yourself into believing the unexpected” if he wants to be able to move things or not sink through the floor. Nelson also talks about how he’s been dead for a few years now and it’s nice when someone like him comes along and he has someone to talk to.
The next morning, Wallace is very aware that he hadn’t slept, though he’d certainly tried. Hugo encourages Wallace to come into the kitchen, where Mei is busy cooking. Nelson is also there, but in a different outfit.
Nelson explains that Wallace can change clothes as well — all it takes is focusing mentally on an outfit in his mind and imagining that he’s wearing it. Wallace tries, but his attempt is glitchy, and he ends up in a women’s string bikini. Embarrassed, he demands help, and Hugo helps him focus and he ends up back in flip-flops and sweats.
At 7:30 AM, the Charon’s Crossing tea shop opens and people stream into the store. Hugo and Mei bustle around the shop while Nelson sits by the fire. No one attempts to sit in his chair, though Nelson isn’t visible to their customers.
A woman named Nancy shows up to talk to Hugo. Mei declines let Wallace in on what they’re discussing. Instead, she explains that it pertains to a situation with Hugo’s prior Reaper (before Mei) where various mistakes were made and things didn’t end well. Eventually, the woman leaves.
Later, as Hugo and Wallace talk, Hugo mentions that he’s a human but ended up as a ferryman because of mistakes that he made. When Hugo asks if Wallace lived a good life, Wallace declines to answer. He admits that he’s scared about what’s going on right now, and Hugo comments that Wallace is making progress.
By now, Wallace realizes he died on Sunday and how it’s the following Thursday. He notices how well-liked Hugo is by the customers that come in.
At one point, Wallace asks Mei why there’s no other ghosts here like him. Mei says that there won’t be anyone where unless they get a new assignment. She also tells him that most people don’t stay long and the longest anyone stayed was a difficult suicide case that stuck around for two weeks.
He asks Mei why she does this job and she declines to say. Instead, she tells Wallace that she chooses to be here and that she’s a medium who straddles between the worlds of the dead and the living. She left home when she was 17 because of her abilities, since her mother thought she was sick and wanted to keep her hidden away. When she took this job, she was trained by the manager to navigate these worlds better.
Wallace also asks about the clock on the wall, and Mei explains that it moves a little randomly on the first day a visitor arrives to give them an understanding that stuff works a little differently for them now.
Later, Wallace and Nelson sit by the fire and chat while the others eat, since they don’t need food. As they talk, Wallace admits that he lived a life where was privileged, but lonely. He admits to himself that Naomi once loved him, but he took her for granted until she didn’t anymore.
Nelson then admits that he likes to haunt the health inspector when he comes to the shop by knocking things over and whatnot.
Afterwards, Wallace and Hugo go out to the garden, and they look out at the sky. Wallace asks Hugo why he became a ferryman. He says that his parents died in a car accident when he was 25, and he could see the Reaper for some reason. The Reaper was as surprised as he was, and he doesn’t know why he was able to see the Reaper. A short while later, the Manager came to see him and offered him this job.
Wallace asks Hugo if he has a girlfriend or wife, and Hugo responds that he’s gay and single. Wallace mentions that he’s bisexual. Wallace also tells Hugo he wishes they could’ve met while he was alive and that they could’ve been friends.
Nelson continues to try to help Wallace learn how to pick up a chair. As Wallace tries, memories of arise of him pulling out a chair for Naomi when they’d first started dating and then later seeing her lawyer pull out a chair for her during their divorce proceeding. In present day, Wallace finally figures it out, but then he accidentally breaks it too. Still, Hugo notes that Wallace seems to getting the hang of this ghost thing fairly quickly.
As the days pass, Wallace gets used to the routine at Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats. Wallace also notices that Nancy returns occasionally — sometimes seeming angry and other times exhausted — and each time Hugo would sit with her. Each time he would tell her that “whenever you’re ready, I’ll be here”. One day as she leaves, Hugo seems frustrated and he goes for a ride on his scooter.
On day 13 of Wallace being at Charon’s crossing, Nelson continues to try to teach Wallace to change clothes, and it results in Wallace in colored briefs and pleather boots.
Afterwards, when he’s changed into jeans and a large sweater, two men in black suits enter the shop. One of them is short and plump (“Squat Man“). The other is tall and thin (“Thin Man“), holding an old briefcase. With them is a young slight, but confident woman with frizzy red hair and a fedora, wearing a nineteenth century cinched gown, who Hugo and Mei refer to as Ms. Desdemona Tripplethorne.
Mei is extremely displeased to see Desdemona, and she asks Hugo to put arsenic in her tea. Hugo says no and that she’s harmless. Hugo explains that she comes here to have séances, while Mei angrily explains that Desdemona is a con artist who gives people false hope and gives mediums a bad name. She also says that Desdemona films her seances and posts them on Youtube.
Mei further explains that one of the people Desdemona conned was Nancy. She “filled Nancy’s head with all manner of crap about spirits and her ability to contact them”, and Mei thinks it’s the cruelest thing that someone could have done to Nancy.
Out in the shop, Wallace sees that Desdemona has laid a Ouija board on the table. Wallace and Nelson decide to mess with her. As Desdemona goes through her séance, Wallace moves the planchette on her Ouija board. He writes “Desdemona” in response to the question “who is your murderer?” When she protests, he writes “You totally killed me”. Then he writes “This is Satan” and “I’m going to eat your liver”. He then repeatedly writes that she needs to leave. Nelson then breaks her camera.
As chaos ensues, Desdemona, Thin Man and Squat Man all flee the shop. After they leave, the rest of them laugh heartedly and Mei gives Wallace a big hug.
That night, Hugo asks Wallace why he did that, and Wallace realizes he didn’t like how upset Mei was. As they talk, Wallace talks about how he’s not sure if he was always a good person.
They also talk about Cameron. Hugo says that he was clearly troubled and angry when he came here. Hugo says that the Reaper he was paired with was more experienced than him. When Cameron ran off, the Reaper instructed him to let him go and that he’d run back when he started to disintegrate. However, he didn’t come back and instead became a Husk, devoid of humanity. Hugo says that he knows that he failed him.
Later, the Reaper brought a little girl, Lea, in who had died of a tumor. She was vibrant and was filled with questions. The one thing she wanted, however, was her mother, Nancy. Then, somehow — possibly from Lea concentrating hard on her mother — Nancy had found her way to the teahouse and was looking for her here. Seeing her, Lea started screaming her head off and becoming very agitated. The Reaper ended up forcing Lea through the door before she was ready.
The incident caused the Manager — a god who is the guardian of doors — to show up. The Reaper asked Hugo to take his side and say that it was necessary, but Hugo refused. Then, the Manager simply blinked the Reaper out of existence. In present day, Hugo still feels guilty about how everything went down, though Wallace reassures him that it was all the Reaper’s fault.
For a while, Nancy had visited everyday for weeks, but then it seemed she was starting to move on. However, eventually Nancy rented an apartment in the town nearby and now she comes back regularly.
Later that night as Wallace talks to Nelson, he decides to pay a visit to the fourth floor just to look at the door. Nelson advises him to do this with Hugo, but Wallace is insistent. On the fourth floor, Nelson shows him the door in the ceiling. Wallace things about turning the door handle, but then he heads back downstairs instead.
As the days pass, Wallace has now been there for 22 days. On the morning of the 22nd day, a file materializes next to the cash register, indicating that they’ve been assigned another case. Mei is going to go retrieve them and bring them here.
Wallace asks about the folder and when he learns that it includes a “Cliff’s Notes” summary of someone’s life, Wallace demands to see his own. Hugo says it disappears, but Wallace insists on knowing what was in his file. Hugo eventually tells him that his file said that he was determined, hard working and that he “didn’t take no for an answer”.
With Mei busy with her retrieval, Hugo is hustling around the shop all day. Nelson reassures Wallace that Hugo is not going to forget about him just because there’s someone else there now. Wallace then asks Nelson when he’s planning on crossing. Nelson says that he wants to make sure that Hugo is happy and that he’s in good hands.
Before the new visitor arrives, Hugo places a sign on the tea shop window indicating that it’s “CLOSED FOR A PRIVATE EVENT” though he notes that there’s also an illusion so that if someone tried to get in during this time, they’d just see a darkened house.
As they wait, Hugo works on picking the right tea for this new person. He settles on a cup of Kuding cha, which is a Chinese infusion tea. Hugo says that Wallace can stick around, but warns him to talk calmly to the new arrival. He says that this person died a violent death and may be upset.
Wallace notes now tense Hugo is, and Nelson warns that this is going to be a rough one. Soon, Mei enters with a man, Alan Flynn, who seems tense and dark. After they make their introduction, Alan bitterly explains that he owed someone money, but didn’t have it, so that person stabbed him in an alley. He bled out while asking for help from people passing by. They ignored him.
Alan initially refuses to drink the tea. After he does, he sets it down and flings the teapot to the ground shattering it and then proceeds to try to break anything else he can in sight, though his arms go through them.
Hugo asks to be alone with Alan and the others leave. In the garden, Wallace asks Mei if there’s any way they could’ve prevented Alan’s murder or if they knew about it beforehand. He insists that this Manager of theirs must have that power. However, Mei says they only get the files once someone is dead and beyond that, everyone has to die and they’d never interfere with death.
Wallace ponders what the point of living is if it doesn’t matter in the end, but Nelson says that the point of life is “what you make of it”. Wallace is angry and frustrated and confused and asks for a moment alone.
Standing alone on the deck, he suddenly sees Cameron there who rushes toward him and grabs him. When that happens, Wallace sees a flashes of light followed by visions of Cameron’s memories. He sees a young Cameron whose parents are yelling at him disdainfully. He also sees Cameron meet Zach, the “sunshine man”. He sees Cameron’s father dying. He sees Cameron in love with Zach and how they had three good years together until Zach died. He felt Cameron’s ensuing fury and sorrow, and Wallace realizes that Cameron must’ve died via suicide.
Alan tries to leave, but returns when his skin starts to flake. The next day in the shop, Wallace tries to talk to Alan to help him move on, though Alan doesn’t seem receptive to it. Afterwards, Wallace apologizes to Nelson for being rude to him when he first got here. Nelson responds by saying that he’s glad Wallace is here and he implies that Hugo seems glad to have him around as well.
At one point, Alan asks Wallace for help in learning how to move things, and he rejects Nelson’s help and is rude to Nelson. Nelson gives Alan an earful and knocks Alan off his feet with his cane.
Later that day, Hugo warns Wallace that he’s going to be focused on Alan the next few days, but he wanted to make sure that Wallace knew he was still important to him. He says that talking to him is one of the best parts of his day, and Wallace agrees.
Wallace also says he understands and tells Hugo about his experience with Cameron. Hugo is surprised to hear about this and didn’t realize there was any part of Cameron left. He’s especially surprised since it contradicts what the Manager told him. He starts to wonder if there’s other things the Manager has held back from him or misled him about. Meanwhile, Wallace wonders if there’s still some way to bring Cameron back. He imagines there must be a way or there’s be other husks out there somewhere that they would’ve seen.
Afterwards, Hugo asks Mei to hug Wallace on his behalf (since Mei can touch Wallace, but Hugo cannot. When Hugo and Wallace are alone in the garden, Wallace asks Hugo if things were different if Hugo could see him as someone he could be with, and Hugo says yes.
By now, Alan has been here three days. Wallace finds himself daydreaming about meeting Hugo under different circumstances.
Meanwhile, Alan seems to enjoy being invisible around the customers in the teashop. However, when Nancy walks in, Wallace orders him to leave her alone. However, Alan is drawn to her because he senses there’s something wrong with her. Wallace tells Alan the truth about Nancy losing her daughter and being drawn to this place.
Alan asks why Hugo doesn’t just tell Nancy about her daughter having passed into the next world, but Wallace says it’s not allowed. Alan also wonders if Nancy had the ability to sense her dead daughter, perhaps she also has the power to see him, but it turns out she can’t. (Mei has said that Nancy has some type of medium powers, but much less strong than her own.)
When Nancy concludes her visit and is about to walk out the door, Alan screams her name. She stops. He keeps making noise, though she shakes her head and leaves. Afterwards, Alan is excited about her having heard him, and he spends the rest of the day lost in thought.
That afternoon, Wallace notices that Hugo is having a panic attack. He recognizes it because Naomi used to get them as well. Hugo talks about how he’s frustrated with his inability to help everyone.
Just after they close up shop for the day, the health inspector, Harvey, shows up. Nelson explains that Harvey once asked Hugo out on a date and was turned down. After that, Harvey has had it out for Hugo, looking for any excuse to give him a hard time.
As Harvey goes through his checks, making obnoxious comments along the way, Alan starts to get worked up, saying that Harvey looks similar to the man who killed him. Alan manages to muster up the wherewithal to figure out how to grab Harvey and lift him off the ground. Mei tries to talk him down, but Alan insists that even if this is a different guy, it’ll still make him feel better.
Finally, Wallace decides to body check Alan to knock him off his feet. Harvey then collapses to the ground. However, Alan is now even angrier. He turns his rage towards Wallace … and then everything freezes. Wallace realizes that he’s the only one who’s not frozen and even the clock on the wall isn’t moving.
Then, he sees a bright light coming from outside, and and there is a stag standing in the middle of the road.
The stag walks up to the tea shop and then it transforms into a young boy with the words “JUST A KID FROM TOPEKA” on his shirt. He knocks on the door and then he suggests that he and Wallace have a chat. As he enters, Wallace realizes that this is the Manager.
Wallace asks if he’s God and the boy responds that there is no God like the one he envisions, but his job “is everything”. The boy reassures Wallace that he’s not here to hurt anyone and that everyone will reanimate as before.
He starts asking Wallace about why he’s here and if he likes it here, referencing how terrible of a person Wallace was before he died and how he didn’t have any friends when he was living. Wallace in turn accuses the boy of putting too much responsibility on Hugo (“you put the weight of death on someone like Hugo”) when Hugo had been grieving for his family. He says that it’s callous and cruel. However, the boy insists that Hugo has a choice and that he should trust Hugo to make his own choices. He points out that caring about Hugo doesn’t mean he gets to second-guess his decisions.
The boy then says that it’s time to go, and he removes the cable from Alan’s chest. Alan’s body then floats in the air, still frozen. The boy recommends that Wallace follow them, and he does. They pass up into the upper floors, and the boy says that he’s going to make Alan go through the door — giving him a nudge in the right direction — but he’s going to let Wallace choose when to go.
The boy also tells Wallace that he allows Nelson and Apollo to stay since it helps Hugo from abandoning his calling. Wallace is indignant that they there’s a limit to their free will (“So we only have free will until … what? It interferes with your order?”). But the Manager is dismissive of his concerns.
Before he leaves, the boy tells Wallace that he has one week to put his affairs in order to be ready to leave. He says that he sees that Wallace is no longer the selfish and mean person he was before, but now Wallace has been given plenty of time to process his time on earth and it’s time for him to go. Otherwise, he’ll force Wallace to move on.
Wallace also asks about Cameron and what can be done for him, but the boy responds that Cameron knew the risks and made his choice. Finally, the boy lets Wallace know that the health inspector won’t remember any of this.
When everyone unfreezes, Harvey complains of a headache and asks to go home. Everyone else is confused.
As for Wallace, knowing he only has seven days left, he begins the process of grief again — not for the life he’d lived, but for the life he currently had here in the teashop. His first day, he is in denial.
That night, he’s angry and is mad at everyone. Hugo tells him to go outside and scream, and he does, thinking about all his disappointments and frustrations. He thinks about his father telling him he was an embarrassment and about failing at his marriage with Naomi. Finally, after that’s done, Wallace Hugo what happened with Alan and the Manager.
Afterwards, Hugo is upset that the Manager is forcing Wallace to leave and demands that the manager show himself . However, Wallace starts to think that it’s perhaps for the best since he’s delaying the inevitable. He thinks that perhaps it’s best to make the most of the time he has left.
Meanwhile, Nelson reminds Wallace that he should be proud of how he’s put in the work to be a better person in the time that he’s been here.
The next morning, Wallace feels depressed momentarily. However, it recedes and he then starts thinking about what he plans to do with the time he has left. He decides they need to find a way to help Nancy, even if it means involving Desdemona. Wallace comes up with a plan. Hugo is initially resistant, worried about what could go wrong, but he eventually agrees to it.
On the third night of his last seven days, Desdemona, Squat Man, Thin Man and Nancy all show up for a séance. For the first hour, Wallace does nothing, despite Desdemona getting increasingly frustrated as she tries to get an answer from the “spirits”.
Finally, as Desdemona and the other two pack up their things, Hugo pulls Nancy aside. He tells her that Lea has gone to a better place. When Nancy doesn’t believe him, Wallace (who Nancy can’t see) picks up a chair and moves it. On the blackboard, he writes the word “SPARROW” (since a sparrow used to visit Lea when she was sick) and a message ago Lea having moved on to a better place. Then he writes that Hugo is taking care of Lea and references Lea’s favorite book, The Giving Tree.
Nancy cries and has a cup of tea and then leaves.
Afterwards, Wallace asks Mei to hug Hugo on his behalf.
With three days left, Wallace finds that acceptance is easier than he’d thought it would be. He spends the day in the kitchen with Mei. In the tea shop, Wallace watches a new couple together, and he realizes there’s something else he needs to take care of.
He asks Hugo to call Naomi. Hugo explains that Wallace was a “client” of his, and he tells Naomi that Wallace loved her and didn’t regret the time he spent with her. He also give her Wallace’s well wishes and an apology for what transpired between them. Finally, he talks about how beautiful she was on their wedding day and how he “never forgot the way you smiled at him in that little church” or how she calmed him down before the ceremony. Hugo tells Naomi that Wallace “learned kindness” in the end.
When Hugo extends the conversation with Naomi by listening to her talk about the type of guys Wallace was interested in, Wallace disapproves of it. He tells Hugo that it’s making this harder for him because he’s dead (implying that it’s harder since his time is limited and there’s nothing he can do regarding his feelings).
The next day, Wallace suggests that he and Hugo take a quick outing on Hugo’s scooter, knowing that he needs to be careful since he’ll start disintegrating as they leave. Within a few minutes of the ride, Wallace’s skin begins to flake off.
They reach a cliff and Hugo says his father used to bring him here was a kid and they’d “talk about all the important things”. He says his father was a good man.
They quickly head back, but as they’re nearing the tea shop, Wallace spots Cameron standing in the middle of the road. Wallace leaps off the scooter and takes Cameron’s hand, despite Hugo’s protests. When he does, he sees more of Cameron’s memories and sees the unexpected death of Zach when they learn he died of a rupture in his brain. He also sees how unkind and uncomforting the Reaper was, which is why Cameron fled from the teahouse.
In present day, Cameron asks Wallace for help, since he no longer wants to be lost. Looking at the tether in his own chest which connects him to others, Wallace realizes what he needs to do. What he’s learned is that regardless of the man he was, he needs to be willing to do things for other people now and to make sacrifices for others.
Finally, Wallace takes his own tether, pulls it from his chest and plunges it into Cameron’s chest.
Wallace regains consciousness in the tea shop. He sees that he’s no longer grounded, but floating. Mei says he got lucky that they happened to have Apollo’s leash on hand to keep him from floating away outside.
By the fireplace, he sees that Cameron is there, looking human-like. Cameron smiles and thanks him profusely.
The next day, the sign on the tea shop indicates that it will be closed for the next few days for renovations. As they talk to Cameron, he says that he doesn’t remember much from being a Husk, though Hugo says it was two years. Hugo finally gives Cameron his cup of tea, which is orange flavored, and Cameron says it smells like home.
Wallace says he doesn’t mind being untethered, since he thinks one of the lessons he was supposed to learn is to “let go, no matter how scary it can be”. Wallace also notices whispers in the back of his mind, and he knows the door is calling to him. Cameron also hears the song of the door calling. Later, Hugo tells Wallace that Cameron is planning on crossing into the door tomorrow.
Hugo tells Wallace that he wants to help other husks, even if the Manager won’t like it. Hugo then shows Wallace a room on the second floor that has some photos of Hugo’s life. There, Hugo admits that he doesn’t want Wallace to go, and Wallace feels devastated knowing that “a great chasm” is between them. He asks Wallace to at least stay with him tonight.
Hugo also says that he thinks Wallace was brought to him to help him question things and understand his place in the world. They imagine what it would be like if they’d met under different circumstances.
The next morning — the seventh and final day — Cameron readies himself to pass through the door. He asks Wallace to see him off. When the door opens, Cameron says he sees the sun and he is joyful as he greets Zach and disappears through the frame and is gone.
As the sun sets later that day, Hugo, Nelson, Mei and Wallace are all together when a blue light fills the room, indicating that the Manager is here. When the Manager sits, Hugo confronts him about lying to him about how the Husks work, telling him there was nothing they could do.
The Manager shrugs this off, saying that everything worked out and that Cameron was fine, as was Lea’s mother. He then coldly explains that he can do anything and prevent anyone from dying and whatnot, but he won’t since there’s an order to things. He says that he has a plan that is beyond their comprehension.
Wallace tells the Manager he thinks he doesn’t understand the plan himself because he doesn’t have humanity that humans do. He also says that he thinks all the Husks deserve the chance. They may be some type of manifestation of fear, but making some mistakes and being scared shouldn’t mean that they don’t get a chance to be found and saved.
Hugo then asks the Manager to bring the Husks here so they can be saved, since they likely only fled due to fear of the unknown. The Manager considers it, but wants something in exchange. Wallace promises to let go if he’ll do it, and the Manager accepts the deal. Wallace asks why he’s willing to accept this, and the Manger says he’s curious to see what happens when Hugo tries to save all of them.
With that, the Manager asks Wallace to make good on his part of the deal, and he lets go and starts to float up to through the ceiling and all the way to the fourth floor. However, before Wallace can float up through the door, the Manager engages in some type of negotiation with the entity beyond the door and Wallace suddenly falls to the floor.
The Manager then tells Wallace that instead of going through the door, he’s decided that Wallace will work for him instead as a Reaper since it will be a lot of work herding the Husks. Wallace is then brought back to life. He warns Wallace that he can easily take back what he’s been given.
Realizing they can be together, Wallace and Hugo kiss. The Manager then instructs Mei to show Wallace how to control switching between being ghostly and being humanly. Mei demonstrates tapping a pattern on her pal, and Wallace repeats it.
The Manager warns Wallace that he’s making a big exception for him, since only one other person (a guy named Pablo from the 15th century) has been brought back to life like this. The Manager warns further that Wallace cannot try to go back to the life he lived since it would create disorder, which is unacceptable. Instead, he should focus on his work — and also get his heart checked out.
After the manager then leaves, Wallace and Hugo exchange “I love you”s.
Soon, Nancy moves away and seems to be on the mend and getting back to truly living her life again. Wallace also has Hugo call the law firm to instruct his former firm that to rehire Patricia Ryan and restore her daughter’s scholarship. Hugo tells them that Wallace sent him a letter before he died with instructions, but it got lost in the mail for a while.
Meanwhile, Mei works on training Wallace. He gets a new social and ID under the name of Wallace Reid. They soon get their next Husk in, a woman. They manage to restore her by having Hugo remove his hook and connect it to her. When he does this, a different tether appears in Hugo’s chest, connected to the one in the woman. Since then, they’ve worked with another dozen Husks, and they continue to work with other spirits as well.
Around town, people hear that there’s someone new working at the tea shop. When Desdemona comes back for a visit, she thinks she recognizes Wallace, but he assures he that they’ve never met.
Then, on a summer evening, Nelson says he thinks it’s time for him to move on. Nelson changes into a younger version of himself, and Wallace realizes that he only stayed as an old man to comfort Hugo since that’s how Hugo remembers him. That evening, they all have tea together, and at sunrise, Nelson heads up to the door. Hugo also encourages Apollo to go with Nelson and the two happily enter the light together. That night, Hugo reflects on how free Nelson sounded once he crossed through the doorframe.
The book ends with Mei bringing them a new file and telling them about their next guest. Unseen by them, in the forest a stag lowers its head and walks off.