It’s official, The Midnight Library is my new favourite book! This was an amazing start to my April reading, and quite the redemption from a poor reading month in February and March.
I’ve seen this book everywhere since it was released in 2020 and honestly I wish I had read it sooner. This is the first Matt Haig book that I read and certainly won’t be the last. I also have How To Stop Time sitting in my bookshelves for quite some time now, and I’m now looking forward to reading that too.
If you haven’t seen or heard of this book yet, read on to the summary. And if you’ve already read it, let me know what you think of it!
Pub Date: August 13, 2020
Publisher: Canongate Books
Number of Pages: 304 (hardcover)
Genre: Magical Realism, Fantasy, Mental Health
Add To Shelf: GOODREADS
The Midnight Library is about Nora Seed, a thirty-something woman who is full of regrets in her life. She is unaccomplished, lonely, and all her relationships have turned into shambles. She’s lost her job at the music store, has a falling out with her best friend, estranged from her brother who is the only living relative that she has, her piano student’s mom decided they don’t want her lessons anymore, and now her cat died. Everything in her life is literally falling apart and she thinks that it’s just better for everyone if she’s gone.
So Nora decides to end her life when suddenly she wakes up in a strange library where she sees a familiar face – Mrs. Elm. Mrs. Elm explains that Nora is neither in heaven or hell, nor in purgatory. The Midnight Library is a void between life and death.
The library is massive, and inside contains an infinite number of books. Each book serves as a doorway to an alternate life. Nora is full of remorse in her life. She always thinks about the what-if’s or what-would-have-beens, if only she made a different decision. Maybe she would have been happier, maybe she would be married with kids, etc. The Midnight Library is where she gets to find out what her life would be like if she had only done something differently.
While the library contains an infinite number of books i.e. possibilities, Nora only gets a shot at living it once. Once she recognizes that it’s not the life for her and that she is still disappointed with the life she chose, it brings her back to the library. She tries choosing different lives and living it, but soon realizes that she’s still dissatisfied. She realizes that every choice has consequences and that even though we can choose, we cannot control the outcome. When she starts to lose hope, the library gets unstable which is symbolic of her real life that she’s getting closer and closer to death.
“It is quite a revelation to discover that the place you wanted to escape to is the exact same place you escaped from. That the prison wasn’t the place, but the perspective.”
Ultimately, she is hit by a realization of the potential and worth of her life and decides that she wants to live after all. She recognizes that she is enough and eventually finds a path towards acceptance & forgiveness of herself.
I love this book. Immediately after finishing the last page, I wanted to read it again. This is one of those books that will stay with me for a very long time. It’s thought-provoking and inspirational.
Like Nora, I find myself constantly plagued by ‘what-if’ thoughts. I always think about how my life would be so different if only I had done something differently. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in a completely good place right now in life and far from Nora’s state, but obviously we all have our own regrets in life, big or small. Sometimes these thoughts are paralyzing and holds us back from true happiness. We’re always looking for the imperfections in our lives and wanting what others have that we don’t. Reading this book really got to me and put things into perspective. It made me reflect on my own life decisions and in a way, I find myself closer to acceptance of my own path and erasing any regrets that I had. So thank you Matt Haig for this book.
One of my favourite lessons that this book teaches is to be kinder to ourselves. We all have our own struggles and failures, but it shouldn’t dictate our life’s worth. We all serve a purpose in this world, and we are all enough.
Some of my favourite quotes from the book:
“Never underestimate the big importance of small things”
“And that sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness. You can’t have one without the other. Of course, they come in different degrees and quantities. But there is no life where you can be in a state of sheer happiness for ever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you’re in.”
“Every second of every day we are entering a new universe. And we spend so much time wishing our lives were different, comparing ourselves to other people and to other versions of ourselves, when really most lives contain degrees of good and degrees of bad.”
depression, suicide/suicide attempt, overdose
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