Study Guide

Hush, Hush Mortality

By Becca Fitzpatrick

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Chauncey stepped easily over the sunken graves and humus of the cemetery; even in the thickest fog he could find his way home from here and not fear getting lost. (P.2)

Setting an early scene in the book in a cemetery is a pretty good clue that life and death will be at issue. Chauncey's comfort in such a setting doesn't exactly bode well for him being a harmless dude.

'Where's dad?'

'My dad passed away last year.'

'How did he die?'

I flinched. 'He was murdered.' (1.85-88)

This novel doesn't shy away from death, and yet Nora doesn't provide many details about her father's death or how she feels about it. Instead she avoids discussing it early on in the book.

It was too late. The car swerved to the right. I felt a jolt of panic, and then it happened. My left shoulder slammed against the car door. It flung open, and I was ripped out of the car while the roller coaster sped off without me. I rolled onto the tracks and grappled for something to anchor myself. My hands found nothing, and I tumbled over the edge, plunging straight down through the black air. The ground rushed up at me, and I opened my mouth to scream. (8.74)

Here we have one of many brushes with death. As much as Nora tries to avoid talking about death, it seems like she will have to face up to the issue at some point. Death just won't leave her alone.

After eighteen-year-old Kjirsten Halverson's body was found hanging from a tree on the wooded campus of Kinghorn Prep, police questioned sophomore Elliot Saunders, who was seen with the victim on the night of her death. (11.78)

Mention of Kjirsten's death brings more urgency to Nora's near-death experiences. Kjirsten was only a few years older than Nora, emphasizing that death isn't just for adults but that it can come for teen girls as well. If Kjirsten can die, perhaps Nora will, too.

'I'm afraid I'll forget what he looked like. Not in pictures, but hanging around on a Saturday morning in sweats, making scrambled eggs.' (14.37)

This is a tender reminder of the sadness that comes with mortality. Inevitably there are little things dearly missed when someone dies even if there are photos, keepsakes, and memories.

Seeing the dead homeless woman conjured up thoughts of my dad. My vision was tinged with red, and hard as I tried, I couldn't flush out the image of blood. (21.79)

Finally Nora has to deal with the horror of losing her father. It's not a very thorough treatment of his death, but it's a reminder that Nora has been trying to repress thoughts about his death and that she needs to come to terms with death and mortality rather than avoid those topics.

'If I'm going to save a life, I need to know who's at the top of your departing list. I know you're privy to that information as an angel of death.'

'That information is sacred and private, and not predictable. The events in this world shift from moment to moment depending on human choices—' (23.72-73)

The name Dabria finally gives Patch is Nora's, but she makes the interesting point that death is not fated and that humans actually have a role in how their endings play out.

Patch swung down off the headstone. 'I'm going to become human.'

'Sure, mate, sure you can.'

'The Book of Enoch says I have to kill my Nephil vassal. I have to kill Chauncey.'

'No, you don't,' Rixon said with a note of impatience. 'You've got to possess him. A process by which you take his body and use it as your own. Not to put a damper on things, but you can't kill Chauncey. Nephilim can't die. And have you thought of this? If you could kill him, you couldn't possess him.'

'If I kill him, I'll become human and I won't need to possess him.' (24.21-25)

Hey, look—it's another graveyard. In this setting dripping with reminders of mortality, Patch lays out his plan to become human. To Rixon, this seems both impossible and undesirable. He wonders why someone would want mortality when he could have the best of both worlds, maintaining immortality while still having human experiences through possession. What do you think Patch's reasoning could be?

'He didn't even care that the girl was made from the dust of the earth! You—all of you—are selfish and slovenly! Your bodies are wild and undisciplined. One moment you're at the peak of joy, the next you're on the brink of despair. It's deplorable! No angel will aspire to it!' She flung her arm in a wild arc across her face, wiping away tears. 'Look at me! I can barely control myself! I've been down here too long, submerged in human filth!' (25.72)

Patch idealizes the human form and desperately wants to be human. Dabria doesn't understand why anyone would want to be mortal.

I tried to piece my memories together, working backward. I remembered the beating wings I'd heard shortly after I flung myself off the rafter. Without any doubt, I knew I'd died. I knew an angel had come to carry my soul away.

'I'm dead, aren't I?' I said quietly, reeling with fright. 'Am I a ghost?'

'When you jumped, the sacrifice killed Jules. Technically, when you came back, he should have too. But since he didn't have a soul, he had nothing to revive his body.'

'I came back?' I said, hoping I wasn't filling myself with false hope. (30.13-16)

Nora recounts the experience of having died. We actually kind of want more. Was there a light at the end of the tunnel? Was there a welcome-to-heaven party? Did she have to go through some sort of celestial DMV for processing? The passage also includes the idea that even mortal humans have an immortal soul.

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