Nora Seed wants to die.
And that is where this story begins.
A young woman on the verge of making a terrible choice. She’s lost her job, her best friend, her brother. Her relationships are chaos and her beloved cat is dead. And above all, she is just deeply, seemingly irretrievably, sad. Nora cannot imagine a day that would be better for having her in it. Living has become burden.
So she decides to end it. She overdoses on antidepressants.
The world goes black.
And then Nora wakes up.
‘Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’
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 almost palpable 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?
The Midnight Library, is the place people go when they find themselves hanging precariously between life and death and not particularly sure about which way to go.
The library is cosmic, and seemingly endless. And it is filled with nothing but books, shelves and, curiously, Nora’s old school librarian, Mrs. Elm.
If you only read one book this month, let it be this. This book is, creative, thought-provoking, emotionally cathartic, and at times almost lyrical. It is 336 pages of complete escapism.
Nora’s journey through the big regrets – from breaking off her engagement, quitting a passion project, not taking a big leap of faith on something – doesn’t fill her with happiness the way we might predict. We all have those sliding door moments, and what Nora found out was that those weren’t the big decisions that made a difference.
Matt Haig created something so special.
This is a streamlined novel by Haig; no side plots, no broad cast of characters, no twists of fantasy just for the sheer joy of it. While the concept does fly high, it also flies straight.
The whole novel has the air of accomplished exercise designed to confront depression and anxiety. What is the best that could happen in your life? What is the worst?
What can you change? What do you have to accept that you can’t? These are limitless, complex questions that are challenging to respond to with both elegance and depth but that Matt Haigh does this with a familiar grace.
This novel turns out to be a celebration of the ordinary: ordinary revelations, ordinary people, and the infinity of worlds seeded in ordinary choices.
The only question left hanging over all of it is which one she’ll finally choose. And in a multiverse of infinite choice and infinite possibility, I’m just not sure that the answer matters enough.