Hyped up to me by a friend, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was one of the best books I’ve read not only this year, but ever. Seriously. I cried. A great story but great messages for all of us to embrace our life and change what we don’t like to create a life worth living full of love.
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IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK, STOP READING! SPOILERS AHEAD
This books starts off in a rather sad way. Our main character, Nora, has decided to end her life. She feels lonely, sees herself as a failure, and doesn’t think she will be missed by anyone.
Instead of dying, Nora wakes up in a vast library with a clock set to midnight. There, she finds Mrs. Elm, her former grade-school librarian, as her guide to the titular Midnight Library. Each book contains a different life Nora could have lead, had she done things differently. Mrs. Elm also shows her a Book of Regrets, full of things Nora has regretted doing or not doing, that will give her answers. They start off easy, going through small regrets like “not being a better cat owner,” and work their way up to the big ones. Her relationship with her ex – what would have happened had they not broken up? Her dream of being a swimmer – could she have made it big? Her band with her brother – would they have found success had they stuck with it?
One by one, Nora explores these lives, and realizes things about herself and her loved ones: Fame comes at a cost of family, a “healthy” relationship would have led to abuse, and there were people who depended upon her and loved her that she was unaware of.
Nora questions what the “right life” that she would be happy in is, even finding another “traveler” such as she who’s also going through lives who tells her that she can never stay in one life.
She comes close when she is in a rather quiet and domestic life, settling down with a partner and a child, but too quickly, she feels torn from it.
She’s brought back to the Midnight Library, where she tells Mrs. Elm she no longer wants to die, and instead wants to live. As the library collapses, Nora races out and is brought back into her original life with the message from Mrs. Elm…
The only way to learn is to live.
I love this book. I love the takeaways. Nora and her family and friends, throughout all the lives, dealt with real problems and regrets, and I think it was important to show that living in the “what if?” only lowers our quality of life in the present, and stops us from pursuing a future.
- Nora got her happy ending with the same partner from her favorite “book”!
- 10/10 messaging and takeaways
- I understand the criticism that it is too simple to tell someone to “find the good in their life” when they are in tough situations. Obviously, this process of looking for “silver linings” needs to be done only after actionable steps to ensure one’s safety, through finding a safe living environment, going to therapy, etc. We can’t “think positively” enough to get ourselves out of tough situations, and I think the overall message here is that because life is worth living, it’s important to seek help when we need it and to give others help when you see them struggling
A rare 5/5 for me. I really loved this book, so much that I will be ordering it for my personal library, which rarely happens!