Pub Date

June 2022

















When Things are Alive They Hum

Hannah Bent

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

My hum... will be in everything, the wind, the sea, the sand, the air, in you.

A beautiful, moving, wondrous celebration of life in the vein of The Signature of All Things and My Sister's Keeper.

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 25, Marlowe is finally living her own life abroad, pursuing her studies of a rare species of butterfly secure in the knowledge Harper’s happiness is complete, having found love with boyfriend, Louis. But then she receives the devastating call that Harper’s heart is failing. She needs a heart transplant but is denied one by the medical establishment because she is living with a disability. 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.


  • Shortlisted Indie Book Awards for Debut Fiction 

  • Shortlisted ABIA General Fiction Award

  • Shortlisted ABIA Matt Richell New Writer Award

  • Shortlisted MUD Literary Prize 


‘a tender portrayal of sisterly love and impossible choices that will break your heart.’

Sydney Morning Herald

‘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

‘Posing profound questions about grief, love and fate, Bent’s debut celebrates life and sisterhood in an awe-inspiring way.’ 

Harper's Bazaar


‘At once uplifting and heartbreaking, this is a story about the special bond between two sisters.’

Sunday Life 

‘A simply beautiful novel.’

Good Reading


‘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, Readings


‘When Things are Alive They Hum is a thoughtful, kind-hearted book. While the words themselves are a joy to the senses, full of colour and scent, it is in the unspoken that I feel delighted. Bent’s Harper says “take that” to anyone who ever thought that someone with Down syndrome couldn’t be of absolute value in a family, a community, a life.’

Lucinda Bain, Kill Your Darlings


‘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

One of the most captivating and memorable books I’ve read in a long time. Brave, tender and heartfelt, I foresee cheese platters stripped down to the last cracker as bookclubs reflect on this beautiful and thought-provoking novel.

Joanna Nell, author of The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village

‘Hannah Bent’s novel is compelling and tender, powerfully placing the reader in the heart and the mind of two sisters with contrasting expectations of life, and the imperatives of love. At times this pulls them in dangerously different directions but ultimately their ability to honour the essence of each other reminds us that in doing so, life-giving expansion is possible even when life itself may be diminishing.’

Suzanne Daniel, author of Allegra in Three Parts

​‘My heart feels larger for reading Hannah Bent’s beautiful debut. This is a novel which hums with love, truth and tenderness. I defy readers not to fall in love with Marlowe and Harper.’

Kathryn Heyman, author of Fury

Hannah Bent_B&W_Portrait.png

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 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.