The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m going to start this review by expressing how comfy this book was to read. Now, I know that sounds a bit odd. It has nothing to do with the beautifully poignant story. Nothing to do with how the depth of characters and their relatable personas that made me feel fully connected in every way possible. And nothing to do with the fact that there’s a hamster peeking out of a rocket on the front cover.
This paperback felt great to hold. The pages and cover were just so soft and squidgy! When open, the book stayed open on the page I was on, no risk of it flapping itself shut when put down briefly. The binding was malleable enough to not crack or crease at any time, which pleased me no end. I do love a book that retains its newness after it’s been devoured. So, thank you, Accent Press Ltd for making this book feel so damn good!
Now, where was I? Aah, yes, reviewing Charlie’s story after he was kind enough to send me a copy and write a sweet note inside too. In reply, the pleasure was ALL MINE, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!
Lorna Love is training to be a solicitor, getting through Uni by working at the local HappyMart and spending time with her friends and family. One evening, on the way home from a dinner party, she is knocked down by a car, and when she awakes, she appears to be in hospital. Except this place is not hospital, she is in fact, in Heaven. Or HVN, as God points out to her.
I’ll be honest, when I read the synopsis and skimmed through a few reviews on Goodreads, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I usually don’t go for anything that has a hint of sci-fi or fantasy. ‘A subtle retelling of The Wizard of Oz with hints of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. No, this wouldn’t be my cuppa tea, surely, but how wrong was I? Very, as it happens.
In fact, it turned out to be a 5 star read for Gods sake! Yes, God, with your hippy beads and unkempt hair and goatee.
The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is a story of hindsight, acceptance, and how our choices impact not only our own lives, but also of those around us. A life lesson where one gets the opportunity to have a second chance, time to thoroughly think things through and see life through a different perspective. It all sounds very deep and meaningful, I know, but Charlie Laidlaw portrays the seriousness of life (and death) with light-hearted humour, wonderful characters and Star Wars.
What I liked about it the most was that Heaven was portrayed as a concept as well as a place of mystery and confusion, mirroring true life in so many ways. The fact that it was a complex spaceship with a severe hamster problem made it an entertaining read.
The narrative swaps between Lorna’s time on board HVN, to her life from child, to becoming a trainee Solicitor. In Heaven she gets the opportunity to ‘review’ her life, to understand different points of view, and to drink white wine and soda with a few famous faces. I enjoyed the narrative the most when Lorna was piecing her memories back together. All characters were so believable, coming from different walks of life, each with a unique quality that made them stand out clearly from each other. Her best friend Suzie was adorable. Slightly annoying, but adorable nonetheless.
I’m finding it really hard to write my review because this book is an all-round lovely thing that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s so cleverly written that I feel like I’m not doing it any justice by gushing about it and singing its praises. My advice would be just buy it and see for yourself just how brilliant it is.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Charlie Laidlaw for sending me a copy to read in exchange for an honest review.