“Midnight Library” (Viking, 2020, paperback, 304 pages, $11.54) by Matt Haig is a book that sticks with you for a long time after the final page is turned. It is more than the tale of Nora Seed’s unusual near-death experience; it also delivers a hopeful message about the infinite possibilities that life holds.
On the day Nora’s cat dies and she loses her job, Nora takes pills with the intent of ending her life. Instead of dying, she finds herself inside an unusual library where one book, the “Book of Regrets” chronicles life choices she wishes she could now change. The remaining books on the shelves offer glimpses of what Nora’s life would look like if she made different decisions. Each book selection offers Nora the opportunity to step into a different life than the one she has been living.
Nora’s former school librarian, Mrs. Elm, the only other occupant of the library, explains that Nora has been given an opportunity to choose her perfect life. Mrs. Elm guides Nora to select specific books that will take her on a journey that resolves one of her regrets and a life that she can adopt permanently. Nora accepts the challenge and explores different scenarios that take her in widely different directions. From a life where her cat is no longer dead, to an alternate existence where she marries a man that she rejected, to becoming an Olympic champion swimmer, to stepping into a life as a glaciologist studying arctic ice melt, to melding into a lead singer in an internationally acclaimed band, Nora begins to see each of her regrets dissolve. But with each new experience comes unexpected negative consequences, and she continues to search for her perfect life.
One of the challenges that Nora must face during each new life is that when she takes over this alternative Nora, there are things she cannot know, like the original songs that the band usually sings to close a show, or what the famed Olympian Nora would say to an audience when giving a motivational speech. Somehow, ordinary Nora muddles along, trying on new lives like clothes. Not only is this an entertaining read, but this book inspired me to self-reflect on my own life choices, and to consider ways to reinvent myself.
Those who love the movies “It’s a Wonderful Life” and who are fans of author Mitch Albom will enjoy Haig’s latest deeply moving novel. Chances are high that the time you spend reading the book will not end up in your “Book of Regrets”.
“Midnight Library” was an instant New York Times bestseller, Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction, A Good Morning America Book Club Pick, and one of the LibraryReads 2020 Voter Favorites. The “Midnight Library” has sold over 9 million copies worldwide across 54 international territories.
Over 20 years ago, Haig nearly died by suicide, thinking he would never be happy again. Fortunately for readers, he found his life’s calling as an author. In addition to “The Midnight Library”, Matt Haig is the internationally bestselling author of “How to Stop Time”, “The Humans”, “The Radleys”, “A Boy Called Christmas”, and his memoir “Reasons to Stay Alive”. He is currently working on “The Life Impossible”, which will be published in summer 2024. His work has been translated into over fifty languages. Learn more through his website at www.matthaig.com.