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The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig
Published by: Viking
Publish Date: 2020
Genre(s): Fiction, Magical Realism, Mental Health, Books About Books
HB&W Rating: 4
View on Goodreads
Buy on Amazon: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository


Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?

A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Synopsis source: Goodreads

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“Between life and death, there is a library,” she said. “And within that library the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you’d make other choices.”

Have you ever wondered about what would have happened if you’d said yes to that cute guy that asked you out, or pursued one career over another? What if every single decision you ever made branched off into a different version of yourself that exists parallel to the you right now? What would those lives look like? What if you were allowed to pick one of them and take over that life instead of your present one? This is the opportunity facing Nora Seed when the many regrets of her present life combined with anxiety and depression cause her to decide to end her life and she lands in the Midnight Library.

Triggers: suicide, substance abuse, alcoholism

“Life is strange,” she said, “how we live it all at once, in a straight line. But really that’s not the whole picture, because life isn’t simply made of the things we do, but the things we don’t do, too.  And every moment of our life is a kind of turning.”

The entire time I was reading this book, it reminded me so much of the multi-verse concept we’ve been seeing so much of in the Marvel Comics movies and series lately on Disney+ (HBW Hubby and I have been on a Marvel kick lately). This book struck me as a cross between the series Loke and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, combining the precepts of a multi-verse with the concept of doing life over and over again until you get it right. The concept isn’t a new one, but it’s always interesting (in my opinion) to see different interpretations of it, because I think we all have wondered at one point or another (or at multiple points) what might have happened if only we’d done that one thing differently, chosen the other path in the woods.

I have to say too that I loved the idea of all of our personal choices and infinite lives laid out like a library. The protagonist, Nora, is a philosophy buff, and there are a great many philosophical references throughout, which I really enjoyed. Because of her love of reading and perhaps more specifically because it was the place she felt safest and seen, her version of the in-between is a library, tomes in varying shades of green lining the shelves and going on and on.

When you stay too long in a place, you forget just how big an expanse the world is.

Many things conspired to make Nora decide to take her own life, but this book isn’t about those things. It’s about learning how to find happiness in yourself for yourself, not in continuing to do what others want or expect of you. It’s about realizing that just as you’re responsible for your own happiness, so too are others responsible for their own and that what you choose to do or not do with regard to their expectations and desires is not a direct cause of their actions or choices. As we travel through lives with Nora, her story shows us that there’s no such thing as “the perfect life.” Each life has its ups and downs and that even if we do things differently, the outcome can remain unchanged, like Voltaire the cat. This book is about possibility and hope and learning to know yourself and accept yourself as an imperfect human being capable of great things.

I loved Nora. Her empathy for others, her kindness and compassion are what drives her, and as she traverses her many different and varied lives, guided by the wise Mrs. Elm, she begins to realize the regrets she had weren’t as regrettable as she thought. When she begins to let go of those regrets, it opens the door for hope and possibility and understanding what it is she truly wants out of life. When she realizes this, she knows exactly which life she wants to live.

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.

This book is a bit predictable, but that didn’t take away from the message and the buoyant feeling upon finishing it. Possibility, hope, self-discovery, and the effects of the weight of regret on our lives. It was a beautiful depiction of the importance of mental health and I hope that it shines a light for those who suffer from anxiety and depression, encouraging them and giving them hope.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed this book and would absolutely recommend it!

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you think!

Join the Discussion!

If you’re looking to discuss this book with someone, join Sarah of SEK Handmade and me on Tuesday, February 22nd at 7pm CST on Instagram Stories Live. We will be chatting and getting to know Sarah, working on some projects, sipping some bevies, and talking about the many lives of Nora Seed. I hope to see you there!

SEK Handmade
Sarah Korth

Teaching crocheters and knitters ready to move beyond the basics confidently expand their skills. 

Sarah comes from a long line of chronic craft collectors, all of them loving to try out every new craft they find! She enjoys everything from painting to sewing to drawing, but feels like she’s found her crafty home in crocheting and knitting. Sarah began her small business journey making finished items for other people, but after years of making other people’s designs, she found herself drawn to creating her own patterns. While Sarah began designing whatever looked like fun, she had found her calling blending her love of teaching and design. As a natural teacher and creative, Sarah loves helping other crafters find joy and confidence through her patterns, blog, and YouTube channel. Every one of her designs is a tool to teach new skills through precise instructions, clear photos, and video tutorials. Sarah would love nothing more than you help you enjoy your craft and grow your skills!

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2/22/22 Update: View the replay of our Books, WIPs, + Sips discussion below! Don’t worry, we won’t get into spoilers without warning!

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Happy reading!

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