Jan and I were ever so happy to learn that Matt Haig had written a new book. After having read and enjoyed his How to Stop Time, we were so enthused about his new story. Happy to say we were once again ever so pleased to have been fortunate enough to be approved for this one.
Sylvia Plath ‘Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘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?’
Nora is going through a terrible period in her life, where everything that could possibly go wrong, does. She’s consumed with regret over the paths not taken, wrong decisions made. Paths that would have freed her from pain and misery. In the throes of depression, she decides suicide is the answer. She has nothing and no one to live for.
This is when Nora ends up in the Midnight Library, a sort of limbo between life and death. Part ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and part ‘Sliding Doors’, every book in the library represents a parallel universe with a life she could have lived had her choices been different. There’s an infinite number of possibilities. All she has to do is choose a book and she will automatically be dropped into that life.
Each time she is dropped into an alternate life, she does so with no prior memory of her life up to that point. She knows she has been dropped in and must wing it and figure out how to fit in seamlessly. There’s a bit of humor when she must google herself and check her social media accounts for clues. In one life she thinks she must have been very happy because she wasn’t very active on social media (ha).
If she loves a life she has a choice to stay. But if she begins to feel disillusioned, she returns to the library, where an infinite number of possibilities awaits. The problem with infinite possibilities is the thought that something better awaits had a different path been chosen.
Each decision/life contains unforeseen consequences, some good and some bad. Is the grass always greener? It is easy to imagine there are easier paths, but are there? The problem with regrets is they are rarely based on fact and understanding the nuances and importance of our lives are not always obvious.
I won’t ruin the surprise by revealing more of what Nora discovers or decides. It’s much more fun to discover it on your own. While this book could have been predictable or schmaltzy, the author has written a unique, delightful, and thought-provoking story. There are surprises in store and it’s impossible to read without reflecting on your own life choices. This was a terrific choice for a buddy read with my friend Marialyce, and it would be an excellent choice for a book club.
I was grateful for the highlighting function on my kindle, as I highlighted a lot. In the midst of a pandemic and social unrest, it’s natural to worry about the future, but, this book was a good reminder to make the best of this life we’ve been given.
Knowing the author has struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide made this book all the more meaningful: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/nov/17/matt-haig-i-wanted-to-end-it-all-surviving-and-thriving-is-the-lesson-i-pass-on
· I received a digital review copy via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.
Life can be truly wonderful, but oftentimes it isn’t. Thinking about the times we are living in, perhaps many have faced and will continue to face life decisions just as Matt Haig has faced in his lifetime. Depression often rears its ugly head in all our lives but when it pitches us into times when we feel our life would be better being over, it takes on the elements of sadness, pathos, and the feeling that there is nothing to live for. This brilliant author is ever so able to handle the topic covered in this amazing book that sheds light on depression and the choices we not only make or possibly could have made in our life.
Welcome to the midnight library, a place that exists in the world between life and death, where our decisions and the paths we chose not to take are explored . Would there have been a better outcome, a happier road, a brilliant future if only we had chosen one tiny different decision?
Meet Nora Seed, a young woman on the brink of ending her life. She is feeling useless, depressed, despondent, morose with the thought that she needed all of this to be over. For Nora, life is no longer worth living, no longer valuable, no longer a place she wants to be. Never thinking of the existence of a library that holds every alternative path your life could have taken, she enters the midnight library where directed by a librarian she once loved and admired, Nora takes a journey down many roads not traveled to see the various ways life could have been different.
Her odysseys into the “what if” are all varied, carrying her into the worlds she could have chosen from being an Olympic swimmer, to a glaciologist, finding love with different people, or even finding that all these choices still might not make her ultimately happy. Is her life truly doomed or is there a shred of hope that there is something, anything that really makes the life she was given worth staying around for?
This thought provoking novel is intense, bringing to the forefront so many things all of us have pondered, our own “what ifs” of life. I particularly was drawn to the wonderful analogy Mr Haig made of life being like a chess game. Nothing changes until we make a move on the board and that move might be made in hundreds of different ways making hundreds of different happenings occur. How ultimately true how all our lives and that of our main protagonist can change with a split second decision or one that took years to form. At a time like now, where we see so much doom and gloom and where suicides are rising at such an alarming rate, this book’s importance are magnified. I certainly recommend this one as Mr Haig is quickly becoming a go to author for me.
Thank you to Matt Haig for opening me up to a topic I find ever so fascinating, to Canongate Books and to Edelweiss for an advanced copy of this tragic yet life affirming story due out on August 13, 2020.