The Things We Learn When We're Dead

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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.

Genres: Fiction / Fantasy

Author: Charlie Laidlaw

Paperback, 501 pages

Published: January 26th 2017

Publishing House: Accent Press Ltd

My Review

Most times, it’s too late to figure it all out. Sometimes, there is the chance to make things right before the domino effect sets all else in motion. Never is there time to tell loved ones everything we wanted to before a fatal accident…unless you are Lorna Love!

“Then she was aware of a paramedic in a green uniform gently turning her onto her back and she lay there gazing at the stars, all she could feel was great sadness and a void that might not now be filled. Then, her eyesight fading, she heard a child crying, muffled sobs from nearby. The child seemed to be crying into a pillow, the feathers pressed against its mouth and nose. Lorna knew that the child didn’t want to be heard…”

Lorna is a young professional who progressed from working entry level jobs to going back to school. She is a budding lawyer now and what you call an idealist. Nothing has come easy to her in achieving her goals. Not following an exact plan to get there, she is graduating soon and happy so, albeit her track of mediocre relationships, the current political situation and the loss of her best friend.

They say she committed suicide, by stepping out in front of a moving car. Only Lorna knows the truth…and God.

“What I don’t know is why you didn’t bother to invent a cure for poverty or cancer. Or stop illegal wars…often conducted in your name! A proper God would have done that.”

Awake in a strange new place, Lorna has so many questions. Her surroundings are the same, but they are not. She finds herself among actors, fancy foods and a sort of imitated world she knows.

Lorna is in heaven…a vehicle for all the souls that have the chance to go there. Not only from Earth, but other places in space and from different galaxies. Heaven, in this novel, is a spaceship called HVN. A place where lucky ones chosen by God find out the purpose of their presence and are given a great choice to make.

As she is recovering on the ship, she is drifting in and out of different memories from her life on Earth. At first is takes a little while…there are gaps she can’t remember, but soon all is filling in. They all lead her to an ultimate decision that make her past life to be one special treasure to be upheld. A choice, a gift and an ending, most of us would love to have.


This novel reads in two timelines after Lorna’s accident. One of her presence in heaven and one of her life’s memories that span chronologically from her childhood to her present circumstance.

At times her failures at relationships are funny and other times very realistic and sad. All the things we do when we are young, she is reminiscing about parents, family life, best friends, school, parties, boyfriends, vacations, aspirations, failures etc.

The novel reads effortlessly, easy going and is well written. Flawless in style. I liked the concept of this heaven where people and other life are picked to come and find out their purpose. The idea of it not only being ‘our heaven’ hit me for a loop for a moment, but the idea is brilliant.

Some small parts seemed a little unrealistic. Earth-like foods / resources and technologies seemed to be there in an abundance, yet here on Earth we struggle with non-renewable resources and extinction. It wasn’t explained how they are so readily available in heaven to indulge on…perhaps it’s my lack of imagination or knowledge, or reading error.

This novel holds its weight with any modern fiction. For my taste it was a little too long in parts, but admittedly, I was eager to find out the ending and the point of it all. Definitely an interesting and entertaining read. I am glad I had the chance to do so.

I received a digital copy of this novel by the author in exchange of an honest review.

All opinions are my own. Thank you.