When Things Are Alive They Hum by Hannah Bent

Friends, I have a treat for you. It is a double debut novel: Ultimo Press, the new publishing house in town, has released its first fiction novel by debut author Hannah Bent titled When Things Are Alive They Hum. It took Bent more than 10 years to write this heartbreaking story. It is not just her story though; it’s one that belongs to all of us who have siblings and understand that this is often the most powerful and painful of relationships.

Sisters Harper and Marlowe are unusually close, but their relationship is complicated by the loss of their mother at a young age, by their cultural heritage and by the condition of Harper’s heart – she needs a transplant. Marlowe returns to Hong Kong to be with her, but the transplant is refused by the medical establishment because Harper has Up syndrome (what Harper and Marlowe call Down syndrome). Told in alternating perspectives between the sisters, we become privy to their thoughts, their anguish, and their pure delight foreach other. Harper needs everything that Marlowe can give her, and it is that journey that forms the basis of this novel. This is a story centred on the concepts of obligation and love. Consequently, it is also a story of sacrifice and pathos.

If you enjoy reading the books of Jodi Picoult or Maggie O’Farrell because they ask tough questions that have a certain moral compass, then When Things Are Alive They Hum is for you. If you need a wee sob, then this novel has come at the right time. If you want to be reminded that your family is not the only one that is complicated, then settle in. There’s a lot to discuss.

Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager for Readings.

Cover image for When Things Are Alive They Hum

When Things Are Alive They Hum

Hannah Bent

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