Heartbreaking. Joyous. Wonder.
  • When Things are Alive They Hum
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When Things are Alive They Hum

Hannah Bent

A heartbreaking work of wonder about the hum that connects us all.

Australian Women’s Weekly Great Read
Shortlisted Indie Book Awards for Debut Fiction
Shortlisted MUD Literary Prize​
Longlisted ABIA Award for General Fiction
Longlisted ABIA Matt Richell Award New Writer of the Year

Marlowe and Harper share a bond deeper than most sisters, shaped by the loss of their mother in childhood. For Harper, living with what she calls the Up syndrome and gifted with an endless capacity for wonder, Marlowe and she are connected by an invisible thread, like the hum that connects all things. For Marlowe, they are bound by her fierce determination to keep Harper, born with a congenital heart disorder, alive. 

Now twenty-five, Marlowe is living abroad when she receives the devastating call that Harper’s heart is failing and she is being denied a transplant by the medical establishment. Marlowe rushes to her childhood home in Hong Kong to be by Harper’s side and soon has to answer the question – what lengths would you go to save your sister? 

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.

About the Author

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, 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.


‘When literature is alive it hums, and rattles and warms and hurts and heals. Hannah Bent and her wondrous Harper and Marlowe have changed the way I’ve been going about my days. What a gift.’  Trent Dalton, author of Boy Swallows Universe and All Our Shimmering Skies


‘compelling and tender’ – Suzanne Daniel, author of Allegra in Three Parts


‘Hannah Bent’s outstanding debut is a wise, wondrous celebration of life.’  The Australian
‘Hannah Bent has created a literary heroine of such pure beauty she takes your breath away.’  Australian Women’s Weekly
‘Read it if you like: Your sister, anything by Trent Dalton, having a good cry, and My Sister’s Keeper.’  Mamamia

‘A simply beautiful novel.’  Good Reading

‘...what stayed with me was the achingly beautiful portrayal of the love between the two sisters. If I had a sister, that is how I would like to feel.’  Nicole Abadee, Sydney Morning Herald

‘heartbreakingly beautiful’ — Family Circle




Pub Date
June 2022




Love. Grief. Sisterhood.