The Midnight Library

CW: Suicide, Depression, Anxiety. Given how much this book focuses on these themes, I felt it necessary to bring them up right away.

Nora has decided that she no longer wants to live. She decides this after years of misery and one terrible day where everything goes wrong. Her cat dies, she loses her job, she runs into someone that hates her, she loses her only client for piano lessons, and her neighbor no longer needs her help getting his meds. Essentially, there is no one else in the world who needs her or cares about her. And so, she decides that there is no point in continuing on and she kills herself. Or so she thinks.

Nora “comes to” in a library. There are shelves and shelves full of books and in the center of the room, there is a desk and someone very familiar to her, her old school librarian. Here she learns that she can travel to any alternate version of her life where she made a different decision than the one she made in her main story. Basically, she has a chance to rewrite the regrets of her past, and with a leap of faith, she picks a regret, finds the book, and then starts the life that she wished she lived.

Now I love this concept. As someone with lots of regrets, I love the idea of being able to go to a life where you made a different decision. I know that in my fantasy, I would be transported to the moment where I make the choice and live my life going forward with the knowledge I have from my old life. This was not how it was done here. In The Midnight Library, Nora is taken to the point in that life at her current age. What this means is that she has massive gaps in knowledge and doesn’t know her circumstances or who people are or even who she is. While it worked in this story, I think it works against the point of that fantasy, in my opinion. I think for what Matt Haig is trying to achieve, it’s perfect. He does make his point clear especially by the end of the book.

I know that Haig has dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts so I know this work comes from a very real and vulnerable place. I’m sure he was living out a fantasy of his own as well and he wrote it in a way to give hope and I would never take that away from him or the story.

Nora is a likable enough character. She is relatable to be honest. I feel like anyone who has suffered or is suffering with depression can look to this story and see a part of themselves in Nora. Nora has a lot of privilege and I don’t think it was really explored in this story, but I want to point out that Nora is talented and had a lot of opportunities and options that many other people might not. I think that it could potentially alienate people who are in Nora’s place. On the whole, I think the themes explored by Nora are universal. What if you committed to that skill? Band, athletics, school, a different major, a missed love, a trip of a lifetime… I think most of us could have a regret surrounding those and would love to see where their life might have ended up had they done something different. With each new life she entered, she learns how she changed as a person, how the other people in her life changed as people, how even though it might not have happened in her main life, something happened in the alternative that is worse.

I think you can imagine what the end goal of this book is, I think all of us know it just by reading the synopsis. I think that it is worth the journey of the story, though the most jaded or willful or people might not appreciate it. I can definitely fall into that category in some ways. Overall the theme of the story is a good one and it will connect with many readers and maybe even positively impact their life. So, should you give in to the hype and read this book? Why not? It’s well written, has a great theme and message, and has relatable, understandable characters. This was my first Matt Haig and I am more interested to pick up other books by him now. Let me know if you’ve read this and what your thoughts are. I would also be really interested to know if you have read any of Matt Haig’s other books and what you thought of them!

Published by keelinrita

A Chicago girl with a lot of feelings about fictional people.

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