Sometimes, I am woefully late to the party. It happens a lot with books. I’m not a librarian (but I used to work in a library) or someone who pays attention to upcoming releases. Usually, by the time I find out about a book, there’s a list a mile long on the holds list at our library consortium. For Example, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (Amazon)(AbeBooks) came out the beginning of February and now suddenly everyone is talking about it. I decided to see what the big deal was and put myself on the hold list for the book about mid-February. I’m number 256, with 17 copies of the book in rotation among the libraries we have. A person is allowed to check out a book for three weeks, meaning it will probably be at least six months before I see what all the fuss is about.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Amazon) (AbeBooks) is another one of those books. Rated one of the best books of 2020 on Goodreads, I kept meaning to get around to it and finally got the book from the library in mid-February 2021. What could possibly be the big deal about it? Well, it took me only two days to read it because I thought it was that good.
“Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.”
We’ve all wondered about it from time to time. What if? What if my father hadn’t died when I was 14, the very same day I had a little epiphany on what I wanted to do with my life? What if I had sent my school advisor to the radio station WQLH to pick up all the free CDs the station was offering my high school student-run radio station? I never would have met my husband, the program director. What if I had been diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder back in high school when it first manifested itself instead of at the age of 35? I wouldn’t have three of my four kids, for one thing.
Trigger Warning: The Midnight Library explores the what if’s of Nora, a woman so depressed about her life she attempts suicide. But before she dies, she ends up in a library. A library of life choices. Nora gets to go through her Book of Regrets and pick one thing she would have done differently to see how life would have turned out. It’s sort of like It’s a Wonderful Life in a magical world. It asks the question of what’s the best life to live? What makes a life worth living? Are your dreams realistic? What should you want out of life?
The amazing thing is that as Nora explores the roads not taken, she realizes disappointment in every book she chooses to get rid of a myriad of regrets. Sometimes the disappointment is there right from the beginning, sometimes it takes longer to manifest itself. But the depression over one’s life keeps coming back to her. She just can’t shake it, no matter how many other lives she tries out. It takes her a long time to realize “what we consider to be the most successful route for us to take, actually isn’t. Because too often our view of success is about some external bullshit idea of achievement – an Olympic medal, the ideal husband, a good salary. And we have all these metrics that we try and reach. When really success isn’t something you measure, and life isn’t a race you can win.”
Some people may find this book inspiring. Some may find it too close to a self-help manual on self-love. Some may think of it as a version of Bill Murray’s film Groundhog Day. Others may be triggered by the nearly constant depression of Nora, no matter what life choices she makes. I’ve been down Nora’s rabbit hole, in high school, after my dad died, but I wasn’t triggered by the constant talk of depression. Others may find the book too much to handle. Ultimately, I found this book uplifting in it’s odyssey, albeit with a predictable ending. Bonus points for including information on where to go/who to call/where to reach out if you’re feeling suicidal.
This is the 5th library book I’ve read this year as part of my Library Love Reading Challenge.
For more reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com
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