Book Review: ‘The Midnight Library’

“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig is a story about a young woman named Nora Seed who embarks on a journey that teaches her about the true vastness of life’s possibilities. Readers are introduced to Nora when she is at a low point in her life: she feels that she has no purpose now that her cat has died. One night, Nora decides to end her life, and finds herself in a library — the Midnight Library, to be exact. Why such a peculiar name? The Midnight Library exists between life and death and helps individuals grapple with the meaning of their lives. While the book may span just over 300 pages, its plot takes place over the span of one minute (you guessed it, at midnight!). At this time, Nora is tasked with choosing “stories” about lives she could have lived, if she made different choices in her past. Throughout this book, readers explore different versions of Nora’s life as she decides who she truly wants to be. 

But there are so many books — how does Nora choose which life she wants to live in, you may ask? Nora is instructed to pick lives where she “undoes” one of her regrets. When she states which regret she wishes to undo, she is transported to the life where she makes another choice — the choice she thought would be “unregrettable.” While some of the possible lives start out great, Nora finds that new problems always seem to arise. In short, no matter how “perfect” Nora thinks a life may be, they all have their ups and downs. The only way to find the life Nora truly wants to live is to find a life worth facing and overcoming its unique challenges, and to realize that in that life, she is alive. Hence, she can make her own choices and choose her own destiny.

Haig’s writing is captivating, his ideas are complex and his message is beautiful. I found this book to be easy to dive into and hard to put down. Haig does a wonderful job of seamlessly transitioning from one life to the next, where so many things are different, while simultaneously keeping Nora’s character constant. Because of this, readers are able to really connect with Nora, and better understand that life does not change the person, but rather that the person changes the life. 

Because of Nora’s strong character, I found myself rooting for her throughout the entire story. Readers are truly able to become connected with the main character, making her journey so much more relatable and impactful on the reader. 

Throughout these 304 pages, Nora experiences so many different lives that each chapter feels like a short story of its own. This is one of the things I loved most about this book; I never felt bored of the story as every page felt like a new adventure. These page-turning experiences further emphasize Haig’s point that life’s possibilities are truly endless. Further, Haig is able to portray life from entirely different perspectives — as a mundane weight, but also as a treasurable gift. This made his message even clearer: life truly does have its ups and downs, but with those come endless possibilities. 

If I had to add one more chapter to this book, I would wish to have more insight on Nora’s life before she enters the library. I believe this would help readers to better understand Nora in her host life, and as a character in general. Throughout the book, we see Nora mostly in lives that are not entirely her own. It would be interesting to see more of how Nora acts in the life that she had made for herself in the beginning. I also believe this would give the readers even more of a reason to root for Nora in her journey to find a life she truly loves. 

The end provides a beautiful twist that ties together the novel and its message perfectly. This is honestly what I liked most about the book — readers walk away with a profound message they can apply to their life immediately, and can apply it in so many different ways. If you are looking for an insightful and enjoyable read, I would strongly consider picking up this book. 

Rating: 4/5