The Things We Learn When We’re Dead
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Humor
Publication Date: January 26, 2017
With elements of The Wizard of Oz and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 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.
Add to Goodreads
Now Available on Amazon!
The old man was as good as his word and a tray was swiftly brought by a male nurse in white clinical overalls who looked spookily like a young James Bond. On it was a plate of grilled lamb cutlets, string beans and sautéed potatoes. There was also a warm bread roll with a knob of butter and, under a silver dome, a bowl of chocolate profiteroles with cream. In short, exactly what she would have ordered in an expensive restaurant, given the choice, and if she’d ever been able to afford to eat in one. Also on the tray was a small metal jug of white wine, which made no sense. During her coma, had it become health service policy to keep patients inebriated? And why the metal jug?
“The boss says that you’re up and about now,” he remarked, placing the tray down and making sure it was well balanced on her knees. The jug of wine and glass he placed on her bedside table. Why wasn’t there a bunch of flowers in a vase? That’s the first thing her mother would have brought. It was the first thing she always took to friends and relatives in hospital, even the ones who suffered from hay fever.
“Who was the old man? The one who was here a minute ago?” she asked, as if there might be several old men in her wing of the hospital. “Grey hair. Beard. Beads,” she added.
The nurse merely gave a small shrug. “He’ll tell you himself the next time you meet. Anyway,” he added, making for the door, and looking uncomfortable, “if there’s anything else I can do, just ask.”
“I’d like to know how long I’ve been asleep.”
“Asleep?” The nurse raised one eyebrow.
“Yes, asleep. I mean, how long have I been here?”
He didn’t reply for a few moments, hands clasped behind his back. “Not long, as far as I know.”
“And how long is not long?” she asked. “Look, if you don’t know, could I please speak to someone who does.” Lorna, running out of patience, had raised her voice. The nurse took a step backwards towards the door.
“All in good time,” he assured her and indicated the tray. “For now, you need to eat. Get your strength back.”
“Look, I really need to know how long I’ve been here. Can I see a doctor? Actually, I shouldn’t have to bloody ask that, should I? What kind of useless hospital is this?”
The nurse, perhaps unused to being shouted at, had backed himself to the door. “Anything you need, just ask. Okay?”
Lorna wanted to scream at him. “But how?” she asked instead, looking around the blank walls for a call button. “And what did he mean by not feeding the little brutes?”
“Just ask, that’s all. Your room is sound-activated so don’t worry, I’ll hear.” He touched a blank place on the wall that somehow made the pneumatic door hiss open. “But he’s right about not feeding them,” he added as the white door closed again, leaving Lorna utterly exasperated. – The Things We Learn When We’re Dead
About the Author
I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.
I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.
I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.
I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember
Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.
Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.
I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.
Win 1 of 2 print copies of TTWLWWD, signed by the author
Blog Tour Organized By:
Contemporary type fantasy isn’t usually my cup of tea, so my joy in reading this was actually a pleasant surprise. After reading over the unique description along with a few very promising reviews I decided to give it a go, despite my initial hesitation due to the genre. I like to mix things up and rotate book types. So, more often than not, when I do actually find great books in my not to usual genres’ I’m ultimately thrilled to have found them. I’m happy to report that this was indeed the case with Charlie Laidlaw’s afterlife tale.
The Things We Learn When We’re Dead was a bit slow paced for my taste, but it is contemporary(ish) so knew was I was getting myself into. That said, there are a few qualities about this book that I absolutely loved. The word choices and scene flow throughout is brilliant. I really enjoyed the way Charlie describes things. Even the dialogue is superb. I think it’s conversation that really makes this book what it is. In a way I felt like the characters are built through the in depth and witty banter. Especially the main character Lorna. She’s someone I could see myself hanging out with. She has a no-nonsense approach to life, along with dry humor and a bit of quirk. Her character feels real, and I enjoyed that immensely!
At the beginning of the book Lorna is in an accident that claims her life. She finds herself waking in Heaven, only this particular version of Heaven is insanely different than anything I’ve ever read or even dreamed of reading. Be it fictional books, religious reference, or any other way for that matter. Lorna’s afterlife is centered in a place beyond all logical comprehension. In my opinion it’s unique, and actually kind of genius in simplicity.
Heaven is a spaceship, that happens to be stuck in a black hole. I’d go into the details of this place, but I honestly don’t even know where to start. Lets just say that Laidlaw covered every ‘what if’ and ‘how is that possible’s’ very thoroughly, and once you’ve read the details… it doesn’t seem as far fetched as it sounds and first blush.
Lorna’s life on Earth comes back to her through distorted memories. They are hit and miss, some significant, and some not so much. They jump around in frame of time, leaving Lorna confused and sometimes beside herself. Her life experiences are uncovered little at a time, all the while she’s trying to adjust to her current living circumstances. Love, family, loss, friendship, and everything in between are unfolded through glimpses of memory. Once in a while I was a little confused, but oddly enough even that was fitting to the premise of the story line.
Ultimately I enjoyed the story and will be looking into the author further. I give it a 3.75 rating.
Thanks to the author and Reads and Reels Book Tours for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.