Author: Matt Haig
Publisher: Harper Avenue, 2020 (Paperback)
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Adult; Science Fiction
Started: July 29, 2021
Finished: July 30, 2021
From the inside cover:
Between life and death there is a library.
When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.
The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren't always what she imagined they'd be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger.
Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: What is the best way to live?
Yet another recommendation courtesy of TikTok, never say social media is completely useless. This book is insanely popular, with two million sold worldwide, and after reading it I can say the hype is well deserved. However good it is though, this could be a very triggering read for some people due to the subject matter (suicide).
Nora is thirty-five and has regrets over her life choices. As a teenager, she had the potential to become an Olympic-level swimmer but didn't. The band she formed with her brother could've been huge, but she left it. She could've been a scientist or a professor, but never pursued it. She was supposed to marry her fiancee Dan, but called it off. She just lost her job at a music store, her elderly neighbour doesn't need her help anymore, and her cat just died. After attempting suicide, she wakes up in a library reminiscent from her school days, complete with a figure who resembles the librarian from her youth.
Mrs. Elm tells Nora that she is between life and death, and has a chance to undo the regrets she has in her current life by exploring one of the infinite alternate universe versions of herself, represented by the never-ending books on the library's shelves. She can explore the lives where she did become an Olympic swimmer, married Dan, became an internationally known singer, and many more. When she finds the life she likes most, she can become part of it and her journey will end. As Nora moves through numerous versions of herself, she comes to a few realizations that literally brings the library crumbling down around her. Nora's final choice will seal the fate of not only the library, but herself too.
I'll admit that based on the summary I was expecting something a different story from what I actually got. Granted, I still enjoyed it, but I envisioned a tale based in magical realism with a magical library as the setting, some sort of ode to literature and stories in general. And this book is not that. However...
This book is perfect for anyone who's ever questioned their choices and wondered, "what if I had done this instead?" I think all of us have done that, to a degree. I know I have, though on a much smaller scale and with less consuming regrets than Nora. The author himself is very open with his struggles with depression and mental health in general, you can tell he poured a lot of his personal experiences into Nora and her story, so I give him tons of kudos for that.
Long ago, I came to the same realizations that Nora hits at a few different points in the story (don't want to go into too much detail to avoid spoilers), so I knew exactly how the book was going to end before hitting the hundred-page mark. This didn't make the story any less enjoyable in my opinion, I had a really fun time exploring the philosophy from Nora's point of view. Other enlightened people might not feel the same though, and might find the story boring if they don't connect with Nora as a character.
If you enjoy the premise of a person exploring alternate-universe versions of themselves, then you'll enjoy The Midnight Library. Anyone triggered by suicide will want to skip this book, though.
Thoughts on the cover:
Simple, yet effective. I really like how this version has a little tiny Voltaire (Nora's cat) in the lower corner.