The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was recommended to me by a friend, and I can sum up how I feel about it in one go.
This book wrecked me.
Let’s get into it.
The Midnight Library
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is a novel about a woman who finds herself in the place between life and death. There she finds a library stocked with books that represent all of the lives she might have lived had she made a different decision. Her guide in the library is Mrs. Elm, the librarian from her high school.
Nora sets out to undo all of the regrets she has accumulated in the thirty-five years of her root life by selecting different versions of her life, but it’s not quite that simple.
The Decisions We Make
Nora learns very quickly that the decisions we make have a rippling effect throughout not only our own lives but the lives of others. Each life she encounters is not perfect the way she had always believed it would be. She’s discouraged by every life she steps into. But she presses on, convinced there’s the perfect life out there.
She goes through her top-level regrets fairly quickly. Calling off her wedding, leaving the band she’d formed with her brother, not going with her friend to Australia. When she steps into each of these lives, she finds tragedy, and the only difference is it’s different than the tragedy in her root life.
Here’s the thing that got me about this novel: it’s based in just enough science for me to 100% believe it.
That works for me. The idea of sliders, the people who move between lives, is based in the idea from quantum mechanics that every possibility of a life is happening at the same time. The mechanism to move between them is represented by whatever object or place your brain uses to organize the complex theory into something you can understand. For Nora, that’s a library.
I was a big fan of Quantum Leap growing up, so this theory sounds absolutely plausible to me. Heck, I’m happy to start looking for sliders wherever I go. Here’s why.
Forget You Know Anything
Haig asks us to forget everything we know or believe we know about life. The entire basis for Nora’s story is this: you must live life, not understand it. Nora has spent her entire root life trying to understand things, and thus, building a lot of regrets around it. That wasn’t the point at all.
Haig walks a fine line here. He does not say that life is meaningless. In fact, he is saying every decision one makes no matter how small has a consequence. The idea is powerful, because even if one feels like they’ve lived a small life, it’s still a meaningful one. Nora learns this firsthand.
Attention to Detail
The best part of this novel was Haig’s attention to detail. The story moves because each piece is so well thought out. Even the names of the characters, Seed and Mrs. Elm, as you’re taken through a journey exploring the tree of Nora’s life.
Haig also had to keep each of the timelines straight. But what’s beautifully done is how the timelines intertwine in various ways. The little bits are the best, and this reinforces the message of the book.
This book is not only going on the keeper shelf, I will likely re-read it with a highlighter and sticky notes. If you’re yearning for a little bit of fantasy, a little bit of science dialed up to awesome, The Midnight Library is the book for you.