The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library

Matt Haig

2020

I really do like to read. You wouldn’t know it based on how little I’ve actually read throughout this year. Thus far, the only book I have read cover to cover was I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me, a non-fiction book all about Borderline Personality Disorder.

I chalk it up to this continuing depression I’ve been experiencing for the past year or so. Things that I once derived enjoyment from just don’t appeal as much. It’s not that I don’t enjoy those things. I just don’t have the energy for them. I have no motivation do much more than get through my work day and then sit around waiting for an appropriate time to go to bed. Which just perpetuates a cycle of depression. Believe me, I’ve gotten into all of this with my therapist…

Anyway, while I was on vacation last week, I figured it would be a good opportunity to finally do some reading. I’ve got a shelf and a small stack of books that make up my to read list. The Midnight Library was at the top of that list, based on the recommendation of a friend back in the fall… of last year. Man, have I been slacking!

Seriously, I ordered this book from Amazon in October or November of last year.

But with all that down time that my vacation provided me, I figured I’d have the time and energy to actually sit down and read something. And I kind of tore through this book. I’ve never considered myself to be a fast reader. Not even close. But I got through this one in just a few days, a feat I’ve only accomplished a few times in the past. Probably when the Harry Potter series put out new releases.

When I say I had a hard time putting The Midnight Library down, I mean it. There was one night I was so into what was going on that I had to force myself to close it and go to bed because the next day was the one day of the week when I knew I needed to get up at a decent hour.

The book has a fascinating premise: that somewhere between life and death is a library that contains an infinite number of books. Each book in the library represents an alternate life… different choices that one could have made… roads not taken. It was like taking a spin around the multiverse or taking a peek at alternate timelines.

Nora Seed, our protagonist, is given plenty of vague backstory that already clues us in to the possibilities that her lifetimes could have represented. She was a gifted swimmer at a young age. She was a talented musician and part of a band in early adulthood. She studied philosophy but was also inspired to potentially study glaciers and climate change. She could have taken one job over another. She could have married her fiancé rather than call off their wedding. So many diverging paths…

A part of me wishes I had been aware prior to reading, so I will share this. Part of the subject matter deals heavily with depression and suicide. While I can honestly say I have not felt suicidal, the depression I’ve experienced sort of caused me to feel triggered as I was reading the earlier chapters of this novel.

But I was able to move past that as I joined Nora on her journey through the Midnight Library and her many potential lives. I found the endless possibilities endlessly fascinating to think about.

Of course it got me thinking about my own life and my own what-ifs. A part of what drives Nora to explore other lives comes after she is shown her Book of Regrets, which is a record of every regret she has ever had in her life. I’m not typically one to look back and feel regretful about my past or the choices I’ve made. But that doesn’t stop me from being curious about the books in my own Midnight Library and where they might have taken me if I’d chosen to do something different at any given moment of my life.

And that was what made it so interesting… Those changes and different choices did not necessarily have to be huge, life-altering choices to really alter her life. Small changes at an early enough age could have an unpredictable butterfly effect that would lead her to a very different set of circumstances in the present day.

There are moments when the book waxes philosophical and it can feel a little heavy-handed. But overall I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it if you haven’t had a chance to read it.

Now I just need to try and continue finding that motivation to read because I have about two dozen more books on the to be read shelf that are waiting for me to crack them open.

Feature Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

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