Set between Hong Kong, London and China in the year 2000, When Things are Alive They Hum by Hannah Bent tells the story of two sisters, the grief that shapes them as children and the lengths to which they will go to save each other as adults. Of her debut novel, Hannah says ‘My inspiration is my sister Camilla who is living with Down syndrome. Our relationship has taught me so much about love, life and grief. I do hope that some of the gifts that Camilla has given me may now be passed onto you through this story.’
Harper, born with a congenital heart disorder and living with what she calls the Up syndrome, is happily living in Hong Kong and in a relationship. On the other side of the world, Marlowe is studying a rare species of butterfly when she is called home with devastating news — Harper’s heart is failing and she has been denied a necessary transplant because she is living with a disability. So begins a journey for the two sisters, both fiercely determined to protect the other no matter the sacrifice.
When Things are Alive They Hum poses profound questions about the nature of love and existence, the ways grief changes us, and how we confront the hand fate has dealt us. Intensely moving, exquisitely written and literally humming with wonder, it is a novel that celebrates life in all its guises, and what comes after.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hannah Bent completed her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art and Film from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London. She undertook further study in both directing and screenwriting at the Australian Film and Television and Radio School and has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. She was the 2013 recipient of the Ray Koppe Young Writers Award for her novel as a work in progress. Instagram: @hannahbent_author Website: http://www.hannahbent.com
My thoughts: this was lovely, be warned you will need the tissues though. Love is a funny, complicated thing. Marlowe loves Harper, her younger sister, and would do anything for her, but the thought of Harper dying from the heart defect she was born with causes her to spiral.
Harper is very perceptive – she can see the pain her sister is in. Pain that dates back to the death of their mother when they were both very young. Marlowe has been carrying her grief around with her.
As Harper’s condition worsens, Marlowe takes things to an extreme, desperate to save her sister. But she isn’t listening to what Harper wants. It’s only when she starts, that she understands and can stop trying to fix everything.
Beautiful, sad, and intensely moving, this was a joy to read although it made me cry. Harper’s way of seeing the world is magical and colourful, all she wants is to be happy, to be with her family, her friends, her Louis, and her Marlowe. Tender and heartbreaking, I think we all need to try to be a bit more Harper.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.