The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

The Things We Learn When We're DeadOn her way home from a party, Lorna steps in front of a car.  Later, she wakes up in a stark white room she thinks is a hospital but is anything but.  In fact, she’s on a spaceship lost in space with a captain known as God.  It sounds very confusing but it really isn’t.  What it is, is a story of a young woman who has to take a long hard look at her life and make some decisions.  She just does it all in a pretty interesting and unique setting.

That’s what makes this book so enjoyable and so out of the ordinary, though I am not sure I agree with the ‘blurb’ that likens it to the Wizard of Oz (though Dorothy does get a mention) and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, even if Lorna is lost in a strange land.

Beyond the setting, I liked Lorna a lot, most of the time (she is a bit indecisive and contradictory).  She’s a young woman who wants to do the right thing but often finds it hard, which makes her real and relatable.  She is lost in a world where she wants things but wants to do right and, while these two things aren’t necessarily exclusive, the balance is hard to get right.

I also liked how the story was told.  Waking up, Lorna remembers nothing and, slowly, her memory comes back so you get a then and now format, with her past being revealed bit by bit, helping you form a picture of what her life was like and who she is as a person.  I enjoy this type of story-telling as I find it interesting, and I did here.

I think Charlie Laidlaw did a great job of drawing both worlds and I felt drawn in, wanting to know more.  I could picture HVN in my head so clearly and that is great.  If I had any grumble, and it’s a small one, it’s that it was a bit long.  I felt it wandered a bit in places and could probably have been tightened up slightly.  However, this is a small grumble and wouldn’t stop me recommending the book or reading more by Laidlaw.  Highly enjoyable!

Emma x

About the book

With elements of The Wizard of Oz, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Lovely Bones, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead shows how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, and how sometimes we can 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?

At first Lorna can remember nothing. As her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decision to make and that maybe she needs to find a way home.

Publisher: Accent Press Ltd
Publication Date: January 26th 2017
Genre: General fiction
Number of pages: 436
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.


  1. I have noticed this book around, but because I don’t like the cover, I didn’t take a second look. I’m glad I have the opportunity to go deeper now, with your great review. Thanks for sharing!


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