The Things We Learn When We're Dead

Charlie Laidlaw

Cover for 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.

Welcome back everyone! I was incentivized to grab a copy of this book thanks to Bookmark That who posted on Twitter saying how good this book was and that at the time it was free to download on Kindle. Me being cheap decided “hey why not? sounds interesting and it’s free!” So I grabbed a copy and looked forward to reading it.

So this one was a little confusing to follow as it jumped between various stages of Lorna’s life. We begin at the end of her life on the night that she dies, and then jump to what feels like her teenage years before jumping to the “present”. I got the sense that the whole point of this was for Lorna to choose life, to choose to be the person she always wanted to be but lost in the journey that is becoming an adult. That journey from “I want to save the world” to “I need to just pay the bills”.

I really liked that we learnt about Lorna’s past by her reliving her memories and then being with her while she reevaluated those memories with the perspective of hindsight. We could see what she was feeling at the time, but then also how those experiences impacted her further down the line in her life. This is something I believe many of us struggle with, myself included. And I believe learning the ability to view events that have happened with perspective and hindsight are important for us to be able to move forwards and progress. This can be as simple as realising we spoke in anger and apologising to a loved one, all the way through to putting your foot in your mouth during an important work meeting and needing to go back and fix this with multiple people before it has a negative impact on your career.

During this reflection time we are struggling with the belief that Lorna is dead an in Heaven. With God and his 2IC personally helping Lorna through this transition she’s able to work out what really happened to cause her death. Reading about some of the things Lorna experienced and at such a young age, you gotta feel for her. She had her brother die at a young age and an alcoholic father as a result to deal with while growing up.

On a regular day each of those are traumatic enough, let alone the other emotionally challenging circumstances that occurred throughout her young life. Learning about each of these and how she responded really gave me clarity into who she was and therefore how each of these events impacted her as a person.

By the end of the book I really felt for Lorna, and everything that she had gone through. I really liked how this story was told. Even though it was a bit confusing at times. After reading this book I really hope that there is a sequel to answer all my unanswered questions. If there is a sequel I really hope I find out about it and get to read it!

Next week I will review “Secrets of Agent 13” by Chidi Duru. As always, if you liked this post please like, comment and share!


Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below!

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