Summary and Story:
“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?” The Midnight Library by Matt Haig builds on this theme and sure does deliver.
In a moment of darkness, when Nora Seed decides to end her life, she does not cross over. Instead, she arrives at a library. The Midnight Library that offers her a chance to undo her regrets. To relive a version of the life she wishes she had. But with one caveat. If at any time she feels dissatisfied, she would be transported right back. On the contrary, if she finds a life worth living, she would gradually forget about the Midnight Library.
Faced with the possibility of swapping her current life with a new one, she travels through the Midnight Library to decide on that one fulfilling life. Does she find the perfect life? Not giving any spoilers here. You would have to read the book for that.
We all have regrets. We often wonder how our life would have turned out if we took that one decision differently. So does the protagonist, Nora Seed. Quitting the band just as they were about to sign a major record deal. Walking out on her fiancé a few days before the wedding. Giving up on swimming that adversely affected her father’s health (who was trying to live his broken dream through her). Not being able to save her cat, Volts, from being run over.
If you have been following my reviews for a while, you would know that I am not big on award-winning or popular books. This one has been doing rounds for a while with mostly positive reviews that got me skeptical. Although the Goodreads Choice Award winners are generally excellent reads. Nonetheless, I picked it up as my first read of the year. And I am really glad I did.
“Never underestimate the big importance of small things”
This is my first book by the author and I liked the way he wove fantasy and philosophy. It is peppered with great insights without being too overbearing. You cannot help but compare it to your own life. I also liked the attention to detail. Nora does not just smoothly fit into each life (as is the case with a number of books on the multi-universe theme). Instead, she does find herself lost in most cases.
The writing style is lucid and grabs you from the word go. You connect with Nora and feel her heartbreaks. Since the author has himself dealt with depression and was suicidal at one point of time, the book is not judgmental.
“The only way to learn is to live”
The book is thought-provoking. We often live in the past regretting that one decision. The could have, the should have, and the would have. The grass always seems greener on the other side. But would that have been a perfect life for us? Would it have been better or worse than the life we currently live? We can never tell.
It does have a lot of similarities with It’s A Wonderful Life. The pacing is uneven and does get slow in quite a few places. Also, as expected, the end is a bit predictable. That said, it did not take away the charm of the book for me and had me turning the pages.
“Because a pawn is never just a pawn. A pawn is a queen-in-waiting. All you need to do is find a way to keep moving forward. One square after another. And you can get to the other side and unlock all kinds of power.”
I loved the book and would highly recommend it. It is my first 5-star read of the year and I hope to keep the momentum going. In the current times and with the pandemic not ending anytime soon, it is an uplifting book with an all important message. That it would all be okay. We just need to hang in there and keep the faith.
Trigger warning: Suicide, Self harm.
About the author
Matt Haig was born in Sheffield, England in1975. He writes books for both adults and children, often blending the worlds of domestic reality and outright fantasy, with a quirky twist. His bestselling novels are translated into 28 languages. The Guardian has described his writing as ‘delightfully weird’ and the New York Times has called him ‘a novelist of great talent’ whose writing is ‘funny, riveting and heartbreaking’.