When Things Are Alive They Hum


When Things Are Alive They Hum was published last year and is the debut novel of Australian author Hannah Bent (not to be confused with Hannah Kent), though Bent, like her character Marlowe, was born and brought up in Hong Kong and studied in London. The novel centres around Marlowe and her younger sister, Harper, who has what she calls 'Up' syndrome, and whose heart is beginning to fail.

This book had a personal resonance for me. My own younger sister has an intellectual disability (though her general health, touch wood, is very good) so elements of Marlowe and Harper's relationship came very close to home. I belong to a Facebook group for siblings of people with a disability, and I know from there, as well as from my own experience, that the sib relationship can be a particularly tangled knot of love, responsibility, resentment, guilt and protectiveness.

When Things Are Alive They Hum explores this complex connection with delicacy and nuance, while also diving into the very political and horrific issue of forced organ donation. I honestly didn't know which way the story was going to swing until the very end. This is a touching and emotional novel -- not just for sibs!

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