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Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Photo by alexandru vicol on Unsplash

The Midnight Library, originally published in 2020 by number one best-selling author Matt Haig, is a fantasy fiction novel. It dives into concepts of what makes a fulfilling life and which regrets are “worth” living with.

Throughout our lives, we always ask ourselves “What if?” questions.

What if I went to a different school? What if I lived in a different country? What if I rejected my first job offer and waited for my dream job? What if I never broke up with my partner? What if I broke up with my partner sooner?

Matt Haig allows the readers to get an answer to all of these What If questions that belong to the main character, Nora Seed.

The Plot

Nora Seed, a 35-year-old British woman, lives her life full of disappointment and regret. She is unfulfilled in nearly every way possible, she believes she’s no good for others or herself, and that she has let down everyone in her life at some point.

On the verge of ending her own life, Nora enters an in-between realm called The Midnight Library that exists between life and death. Here, she meets her old friend, the librarian, who explains that every book in the library represents a different version of her life — and there are infinite.

The heaviest book of all is The Book of Regrets. It contains all of the regrets Nora has ever felt. The librarian explains that Nora can choose to live any version of her life she wishes, to rid herself of the regret of having not lived that life in the first place. She first chooses to explore life with her ex-fiance, in a world where she married him instead of leaving him before the wedding, a heavy regret she feels in real life.

As she lives more and more lives, she notices that her alternate versions of life didn’t quite suit her either. She comes to realize that she spent so much of her time letting her heavy regrets bring her down when they weren’t worth regretting over in the first place. Ultimately, she chooses to stay in her original life —which now looks like a much happier life, with less regret and more fulfillment.

What I Liked

Matt Haig writes in a way that makes you truly feel what the main character feels. Every chapter was so vivid to me. When Nora was sad, I was sad. When Nora was happy, I was happy.

I liked the very beginning of the book, how he removes every purpose of Nora’s life one by one (not sure why I enjoyed arguably one of the saddest parts of the entire book so much) — her cat, her job, her newly independent neighbor, her piano student. It made me self-reflect on my own life (as the entire book did) and think about how many people I make an impact on every day.

I also like how she doesn’t spend too much time in each life. The novel never gets boring or stuck in a particular life. It’s hard to put down and that’s what makes it such a good read.

I always questioned how Nora is ever going to be happy in any of her alternate lives. She doesn’t know anyone, she doesn’t love anyone, and she can’t just start from scratch. Particularly in the life where she’s married to Ash and has a daughter with him, Molly. I was very slightly convinced that she would stay here. She was so happy, and so fulfilled being a mom. But that’s the thing — she was fulfilled being a mom but not quite as much being a wife. She wanted to love Ash, for him being the amazing person that he is, but she couldn’t bring herself to. Perhaps she could love him, but not be in love with him, and that’s the difference.

Probably what I liked the most is that she truly loved Molly. It made me think about how unconditional love is for your child.

What I didn’t like

There really isn’t much I didn’t like about this book. If I had to name something, it would be that I read the book being 95% sure she would choose her original life, because isn’t that the lesson we all need to learn? To be happy with what we have, to make the most of what we’ve got, the grass will always seem greener on the other side.

So, there wasn’t a huge element of surprise or a big twisted ending. Having said that, the book is still so captivating despite being sure of how it’ll end. To me, that’s an indication of just how good the book really is.

Would I recommend this book?

If it wasn’t already clear….yes!

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Meghana Murthy

Meghana Murthy

Data Science | Octane | New York City | Books | Piano | Music