The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (2020) – In the Midnight Library, you will find all the books of all the other lives you might have lived. And then go live them. Nora Seed arrives there, in this place between Life and Death, and sees the chance to change the misery and disappointment of her life. She will have to face the question of what is the best way to live?
In my family, we have adopted the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve. This was one of the books I got in 2021. Books can be many things: exciting or dull, wonderful or ponderous. Some books are perfect. Before Matt Haig’s head gets too big for the room, let me explain what I mean by “perfect” here. It’s the right book for the right reader at the right time. “The Midnight Library” was the perfect book for me last Christmas. There was a book-sized hole in my life, and this one fit as if it were made just for me.
Life has not turned out the way Nora Seed expected. Childhood dreams left at the wayside, relationships that ended, poor decisions that led to poor results. She sees herself as a “…black hole, collapsing in on herself” and decides to remove herself from the universe. What she doesn’t expect is to run into the school librarian from her youth, in many ways the only friend she had then. They find themselves in this strange library, with moving shelves and thousands of books. Some are quite long, others are very short. All of them tell the story of different decisions and different lives. Nora can enter any of them, even choose to stay in any, if it’s the life she always wanted. She gets to choose, but the choices turn out to be harder than she expects.
“The Midnight Library” caught me from the first page. It was a book I didn’t want to stop reading. With every page, I followed Nora on her journey while I contemplated my own. Haig tells a wonderful story and is an excellent writer. He put me in of Nora’s lives, and in the peculiar place between places that is the Library. I understood Nora’s quest. In the end, I understood her final decision as well.
When I finished the book, I sat and thought about choices. About the “books” still to be written in my own life, and which one I might choose. Then I thanked my wife for this wonderful gift.
She’d chosen the perfect book.
Rating – **** Recommended