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

About this book…

On the way home from a dinner party she didn’t want to attend, 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 decisions to make and that she needs to find a way home…

My review…

I was intrigued by the idea of this book when I first read reviews of it. I’m a big Wizard of Oz fan and so the mention of that storyline as a comparible here was what swung it for me and I knew I had to read it. The fact that it seems to be marketed as fantasy and contemporary sci-fi is very much a misdirection as it’s really just a story of a girl who needs to remember her life so that she can learn from her mistakes and find her way back home.

The unusual thing about this book is that Lorna is apparently dead and awaiting her “transition” aboard a giant spaceship called HVN. Sounds weird? That’s what I thought too but once I watched the living Lorna attend a dinner party she obviously didn’t want to be at and end up being knocked over on her way home, it actually didn’t seem that strange when she woke up without a scratch on her in a strange place that obviously wasn’t a hospital! And who wouldn’t want their nurse to look like a young Sean Connery?!

What surprised me more was that this had such a beautifully descriptive narrative that flowed unexpectedly into an insightful look at the fine line between life and death. By being on board HVN, Lorna was able to take her time downloading her memories of her whole life and as they gradually came back to her we were able to follow her life story, watching the highs and the lows, not judging her by her mistakes but watching as they all come together to make the Lorna we meet at the beginning….at her death.

I loved the concept of the spaceship as Heaven. All The meals served to Lorna were her favourites, and the best ones she’d tasted at that! It was a very cleverly crafted idea, unlike anything else I have read recently. Every aspect of life on board HVN was intricately detailed and explained as the plot progressed and I found it quite thought provoking as I watched Lorna come to terms with what had happened to her. And although I knew how it probably would end, I still found myself wondering what Lorna had to do and what had really happened that day for Lorna to have been one of the chosen ones.

This is a poignant modern day fairy tale with a twist. The unique storyline felt strangely comforting as we followed Lorna on her journey of self discovery within it’s unorthodox setting. I didn’t want it to end and found those final few pages to be quite emotionally charged, leaving me with an unexpected optimism about life in general and feeling very glad that I had read it.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead: A modern fairytale of love and loss that weaves together the inner conflicts of a young woman’s life. is available to download now from Amazon UK (affiliates link) My review copy came from the author.

Meet the author…

Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up children.


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I am a Norfolk girl living in leafy Cheshire with my grumpy Scotsman. A mum and nana who lives for my family but who is also addicted to reading (and Marmite!) I will read almost anything but my preferred genres to review are psychological thrillers, crime procedural novels or women's fiction. My kindle is my life but I also have a substantial bookshelf in my cosy reading room where I can go to escape the stresses of family life with plenty of tea and chocolate. I am a member of netgalley and bookbridg. I review on Amazon, where I'm a Top 500 reviewer, and Goodreads. You can always find me over on Twitter @jocatrobertson for any review requests.

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