Eleven-year-old Hannah is not having a good summer. Her parents are getting divorced and she doesn’t understand why. Oh, and her grandfather seems to have some kind of business with the Devil. And something is wrong with Hell and Evil. Hannah’s tale in Michael Marshall Smith’s gripping Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence is not your ordinary kid’s story, except for the fact that Hannah and the Devil and her shockingly old grandfather seem to be the only ones who can intellectually handle what’s going on. The “grown ups” are constantly asking “What?!” and “Why?!” instead of doing what needs to be done. I loved every page of this blackly funny and surprisingly harrowing novel.
After a curious false start, which functions as a prologue that only makes sense later, we meet Hannah as she is learning that her parents are separating. She’s noticed that her parents’ relationship has been souring, but she’s still floored when the rupture happens. Her father falls into a deep depression and sends Hannah to stay with her grandfather “for a while.” That’s when things start to get really interesting. Her grandfather has a car that’s bigger on the inside, walks up and down beaches so that they don’t get unbalanced, and no one actually knows when he was born. And then, the Devil shows up to ask about the Sacrifice Machine.
The narrator of this novel would say that I’m getting ahead of things. More than once, that narrator interrupts the action to address readers directly to point out that lots of things in this story are happening all at the same time or add epilogues to explain what happens to people who the Devil encounters during his(?) attempts to get Hell and Evil back on track. Consequently, we know a lot more about what’s happening around Hannah and the Devil’s stories than they do. This all adds a magnificent sense of tension as the protagonists (including a hilarious accident demon) and the Devil dip in and out of this world’s version of Hell, travel to Siberia, locate a Fallen Angel in squirrel form, perform rescues, and more.
Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence is a lightning fast read full of things I love in stories: narrators futzing around with how the story should be told, ethical dilemmas, supernatural creatures hiding just out of sight, and a no-nonsense heroine who is brave enough to do the necessary in spite of her fear. Readers who don’t mind more than a few hints of Devil-caused violence will enjoy this highly original book a lot, I think. The narrator’s irreverence and the author’s off-kilter sense of humor had me laughing more than once. More than anything, Hannah Green is a great character; she absolutely makes this book, though her grandfather steals the show every now and then.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration.