Review: The Midnight Library

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The cover of the book (Published by the Penguin Publishing Group)

Manwela Katas

TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide, Overdose, Depression
This review may include slight spoilers for the book The Midnight Library

The New York Times bestseller, The Midnight Library, a fantasy novel written by Matt Haig.

The story follows Nora Seed as she finds herself on the verge of a breakdown after she loses her job, her best friend, her brother, her mom, and her cat. She decided her life was no longer worth living. After falling into a deep state of depression, Nora decided to end her life. But before she’s completely gone, Nora finds herself in The Midnight Library, a place between life and death where she gets to explore all the potential lives she wishes she’d lived if she’d made better choices. The library has an infinite number of books, or, for lack of a better word, lives, that Nora can experience. And to her surprise, she finds Mrs. Elm, Nora’s school librarian. As Nora dives into these different lives and tries to find one that she liked more than the last one, she comes to the conclusion that she didn’t want to die.

This novel was very simply written, but that’s what made it so refreshing to read. It was very eye opening and, at times, I found myself relating to Nora. At the start of the book, I found myself confused since each chapter would start by stating how many hours “before she decided to die,” so I was wondering why a book would start with the character dying. While reading the book, I felt a lot of empathy for Nora; she constantly felt misunderstood by others and made herself feel bad for things that were out of her control, like her cat dying. Her cat had died on the side of the road, and she had felt that it was her fault. However, after she had visited a life where her cat hadn’t died on the road, she discovered that her cat would’ve still died because he had a heart condition that she couldn’t control. Through that, I learned a huge lesson, as well as many other people that read this book. Things happen and we can’t control them, which I think is a very strong and important message from the author. And most importantly, Nora’s character was written in a way that anyone reading the book could find some way to relate to her, which is exactly what I felt.

I definitely don’t think this book is for everyone for many reasons, like its simplistic style of writing, its third person point of view, the heavy topics that are discussed, or the lack of plot in the book. However, I think that anyone can take out their own message from it. I very much enjoyed the journey of reading this book because of how strongly it portrayed its message throughout the book. For example, when Nora thought, “She realized that she hadn’t tried to end her life because she was miserable, but because she had managed to convince herself that there was no way out of her misery.” And that showed that we try to tell ourselves that our life is and always will be bad and that there’s no way to change it, but that wasn’t the truth. We are always capable of changing at least one thing about our life, and that one thing can change everything. As Mrs. Elm says, “If you had done just one thing differently, you would have a different life story.” I really loved that The Midnight Library showcased how not to dwell on the what-ifs. It gives you a different perspective on life, and it preaches living in the moment. The author writes, “You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

According to the Matt Haig website, The Midnight Library has sold over two million copies within a year
since its release date in 2020, and it has received a lot of positive reviews from The Washington Post, NPR, and New York Times. In a recent interview, Matt Haig talks to his readers about how he hopes this book can deliver a message to his community, he says “Well firstly I just hope they enjoy the story, but I also hope it helps them to think about their own lives and offers some comfort when feeling a sense of inadequacy or regret about their own present situation. Ultimately, like a lot of my books, I wrote it for myself. A kind of therapy for myself, a way of dealing with my own doubts and worries about the passing of time. So, I hope readers find the same comfort in reading it as I did in writing it.” Rest assured that no matter what my life brings, The Midnight Library will always remain as my comfort book and I hope it can be yours too.