Book Review: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw


So my latest review is of The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is about how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, but how we can sometimes get a second chance.

On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions.
It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN, because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident… or does God have a higher purpose after all?
Despite that, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is neither sci-fi nor fantasy. It is a book about memory and how, if we could remember things slightly differently, would we also be changed?

In HVN, Lorna can at first remember nothing. But as her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decisions to make and that, maybe, she can find a way back home. (Thanks Amazon)

So I did not know what to expect when I started reading this novel.  The premise that Heaven, or HVN, is a spaceship, along with the cover of the novel insinuates that this is a sci-fi novel.  It is also often likened to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in some of the blurbs you may read.  I have to say that I completely disagree with this comparison.  It is not a sci-fi comedy in the way that Douglas Adam’s novel is.  It is a novel about the actions we take, the way events shape us, and if we had the opportunity, would we change things?  It just happens to be set on a spaceship!

Lorna Love finds herself dead, after stepping out in front of a car.  Upon waking, she finds herself on HVN, a spaceship captained by a very laid back God.  The novel moves between Lorna’s memories in life and her time on HVN.  This book covers so many different topics; the ‘what if’s’ of life, memories and our interpretation of them, faith, death and the afterlife. Quite a lot to cover!

I really enjoyed following Lorna’s life up to her death, finding out why she was standing on that curb that fateful evening, distressed, stepping out in front of a car she seemingly didn’t see.  I also particularly enjoyed exploring Laidlaw’s vision of HVN and God’s impact on the Earth as a whole, both in his actions and the subsequent faith that developed amongst Earth’s inhabitants.  It really is an interesting concept to read about, even if it is fiction!

I don’t want to give too much away about this novel – it really is one that you need to read for yourself.  But please don’t be put off by the cover or the concept.  It is so much more than a novel about a spaceship.  It’s about finding yourself, exploring your past and working out what you really want from life, even if it is in death.

So, please do go and get yourself a copy of this novel and let me know what you think.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thank you to Charlie Laidlaw for providing me with a copy of his fab novel in exchange for my honest review!