Book Reviews, Reviews

Book Review – The Midnight Library By Matt Haig

-By Soul Sword-

Genre- Fiction, Fantasy, Philosophy

If you have an opportunity

-to undo every regret in life and craft the perfect one

-or to change decisions and choices you made

-or to live a life where your estranged or departed loved ones still are with you…

Would you take it?

If one is curious about this concept, ‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig is the perfect book for you as it covers all of this and much more.

The book starts with some incidents that lead to Nora’s decision to end her life. As soon as she attempts suicide, the time stops and she is teleported to a library. The librarian is a mysterious woman who seems to know about what is going on.

Nora is given a book named ‘Book of Regrets’. She is given a chance to live out the “What ifs?” of her life. This includes job opportunities not taken, relationships not broken; a better family environment and many other decisions. She is told that if she feels any one of them is perfect for her she can choose to live in that life for her remaining life span.

From here starts what is the unusual story of the Midnight library where Nora gets to live in multiple parallel universes back to back.

Nora Seed is given the option to hit the ‘Undo’ button and rebuild a different life. The book is in simple language and the narrative is easy to follow. There is an infinite number of divergent universes that the protagonist travels through. Though quantum physics plays a role in the narrative, there are very few rules in the midnight library and it is an interesting read.

This is a good book to read if one needs to know the importance of self-love. There are a lot of life lessons in this book for the reader despite it being a fantasy. It is penned in a beautiful manner that reiterates that one must embrace life for what it is.

The book is immersive. When one gets the idea of the narrative, we can’t help but try guessing the ending. The reader cooks up scenarios in their minds as to which life will be best suited for Nora or which one she will choose or will she go back to her original life to live it out.

There are numerous forks that Nora takes and the author has chosen the most common ones. The reader can relate to at least one of the numerous lives which Nora chooses.

In her original life, Nora, 35, loses her job. We learn that she is under medication for depression. She has been through a bad break-up. She has no friends and her pet cat dies. She is filled with a lot of regrets and questions a lot of decisions she has made earlier.

Often in alternate lives, Nora is either successful or living a dream with a person who is not a part of her present life. Yet, she always yearns for the relationships/people that she had in her original life and often misses them.

She also finds that certain events or characteristics are always present through all lives which is intriguing. Her life choices have no impact over them.

Nora swaps her other self at the same date in an alternate life and she has no idea how the other-self has been living her life all along. She always lands in a life where she has no clue what is going on except that she has undone one of the regrets in the book. As she goes along the alternate lives, she feels alien to them though it is supposed to be her own. At times she feels she is miserable though she is famous. She also feels that she was better off in her original life. It is ironic that some of the lives where Nora achieves her lifelong dreams turn out to be worse than the original life (which she considers a failure).

The book’s idea is that every life scenario we can think of (which includes any career choice, relationship choice etc) is currently happening in another universe. A version of Nora is living that life right now and that is the reason she doesn’t have it in this life. It also reiterates that every alternate life is original and one has to see what life has in store. After reading the book one has a healthy outlook towards failures or wrong choices.

The book touches upon a common assumption one makes when faced with adversity. Usually, one decision is assumed to have caused that adversity. Soon all the problems join the pile and everything is pointed towards that one choice made so many years ago.

The best part of the book was where one learns that we think one decision will lead to the desired outcome but in reality, we have control over only the choices and not the outcomes. The outcomes are different (from the present) but one can’t be sure if that outcome matches what we desired in the first place.

The book states, “Doing one thing differently is the same as doing everything differently.” We learn that one won’t know what else will change along with the ‘one choice’ while walking down the other fork.

Often when faced with failure, the human mind thinks everything would be fine if one is successful or famous. Here Nora’s successful lives show that there are drawbacks in successful lives too and that no life is perfect. She also learns that in these lives also she is still getting treated for depression.

The novel mainly follows Nora through her lives and there are many secondary characters. Every character is important to Nora and the reader sees them only through her eyes. It is interesting to see how Nora’s relationship with these characters changes with every alternate life. Each of them plays a part in shaping Nora’s lives.

The author has done a great job in packing deep meaning in a light read. The book is gripping and immersive. The book’s ending is open-ended which suits the theme of the novel. It shows that life is unexpected and the choices we make have no power over the consequences. The Midnight Library emphasises that the only way to learn is to live!

I rate The Midnight Library at 4.5/5

Click here to purchase the book

Quotes from the book:

“Regrets don’t leave. They weren’t mosquito bites. They itch forever.”

“Sometimes just to say your own truth out loud is enough to find others like you.”

“Love and laughter and fear and pain are universal currencies”.

“It was interesting, she mused to herself, how life sometimes simply gave you a whole new perspective by waiting around long enough for you to see it.”

“If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise.”

“We only need to be one person.
We only need to feel one existence.
We don’t have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite. While we are alive we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.”

-By Soul Sword-

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