There has been a lot of hype surrounding The Midnight Library for a while now, but I've been putting off reading it because I was nervous that the subject matter would trigger my anxiety. I should have thought more about it, as this is an author who clearly understands mental health, as perfectly illustrated in this quote from the book:
"You're overthinking it."
"I have anxiety, I have no other type of thinking available."
Given how this book opened, it ended up being incredibly uplifting in its messaging. It's a tricky subject matter to tackle well, but Matt Haig manages - the book is deep and meaningful throughout without ever feeling too heavy or morbid.
The concept itself was a novel one to me - the idea that there's a gap between life and death, a space where you can try on all the different lives you forsook when you made one choice over another; it's a very enticing thought for someone like me, who is always wondering if they're doing the right thing. The lives that Nora chose to play out provided great variety for the plot - everything from keeping her cat in instead of letting him out to becoming a glaciologist in the Arctic (this was so random that I found myself wondering if the author was living vicariously through Nora on this one).
Alongside all the multitudinous options that Nora explored, there was a great pace and balance in the book. Some lives were visited for half a page, while others went on for 10 or 20 pages. It gave a good insight into how each different choice she altered, big or small, impacted how she felt about carrying on.
Ultimately, the main draw of this book is that it has been beautifully and empathetically written. There was never any judgement of any of the choices that Nora made, just an objective demonstration of the outcomes of her choices. The content was filled with quotable snippets that stick in the mind and inspire you to feel better about your life long after you've finished reading the story. I've included a handful of my favourites below:
"Sometimes regrets aren't based on fact. Sometimes regrets are just a load of bullshit."
"You can choose choices but not outcomes. It was a good choice. It just wasn't a desired outcome."
"Sometimes the only way to learn is to live."
"There is no life where you can be in a sheer state of happiness forever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you're in."
This was a can't-put-down book. I read it cover to cover in one night and loved it completely. Everyone should read it once for the life affirming positivity it exudes.
Nora's life has been going from bad to worse. Then at the stroke of midnight on her last day on earth she finds herself transported to a library. There she is given the chance to undo her regrets and try out each of the other lives she might have lived. Which raises the ultimate question: with infinite choices, what is the best way to live?
You can buy the book here now. It was published by Canongate.