Folks, I may have just found my favorite book of the year.
“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig is a story about life and death, love and loss, hope and second chances. On the inside cover, it reads that Haig created “A dazzling novel about all of the choices that go into a life well lived.” I couldn’t have summarized things better myself.
Nothing is going right in Nora Seed’s life: She just left the man she loved, weeks before her wedding. Her employer fired her for “putting off customers with a face looking like a wet weekend.” When an acquaintance comes knocking on her door, informing her that her cat has just been hit by a car, Nora feels empty inside. With no one to love her, with no sense of purpose in sight, she takes fate into her own hands, and decides to end her life.
But between life and death, there is a library. Shelves of books stretch in all directions, as far as the eye can see, and each book contains a different life, a possible world in which Nora carries out her existence, based on different choices that she’s made. With the help of an ethereal old friend, Nora can rummage through these pages, slip in and out of her life as an Olympian Gold Medalist, a singer, a motivational speaker, and others. In the Midnight Library, she comes face to face with a lifetime of regrets, either big ones or small hopes and dreams dissolved, and can witness “a day in the life” of wishes come true.
What Nora begins to realize though, is that there were reasons why those dreams fizzled, her choices in life were quite sound after all. As Nora travels, her Book of Regrets gets lighter, and old hostilities begin to fade away.
While the Midnight Library stands, Nora is preserved from death. But time can in fact move, the magic can run out, and if Nora doesn’t decide the best way to live, her fate may just be eternal rest.
This book was exquisite- I completely understand why it was an instant bestseller and rated GoodReads Fiction winner of 2020.
We have all found ourselves in a reflective state this year, in response to the good or bad that has come our way, in response to the ways we’ve moved forward, fell backward, felt stuck.
This book made me ponder things like, “what would happen if I took another job,” or “what if we had decided to have kids earlier” or “where would I be now if I never moved to Virginia?” Although the reflective exercises allowed me to pinpoint areas of my life that require minor adjustments, it also made me realize that the day to day needs to be better celebrated. Despite a topsy-turvy 2020, despite the fact that goals weren’t exactly “crushed” this year, the quiet, hyper-present moments have actually been pretty special.
FINAL SCORE: 5 This book revels in the beauty of an ordinary life. Perhaps we all didn’t become rock stars are famous authors or noteworthy lawyers, perhaps we didn’t get to travel as much as we hoped or maybe we didn’t get the perfectly crafted fairy-tale ending that we dreamt about as children. Perhaps our picket fences aren’t white, perhaps we built businesses that failed or maybe that student loan debt is still crippling at 35. This book proves that we all have bends in turns in our paths, some detours are wonderful while others are not, some scenic overlooks are more gorgeous than others- nothing is perfect. But being alive… that is always going to be good.
BEST FOR: All readers. This book reminds me of works by Mitch Albom or Randy Pausch: “The Last Lecture,” “Tuesdays With Morrie,” and “For One More Day.” They are short in length but are overflowing with wisdom, words that transcend beyond quality prose. They prompt people to take a hard look at the life they are living, scan current chapters to ensure satisfaction and fulfillment. This was definitely one of those books, but the author shared his philosophies through storytelling. We followed Nora Seed’s journey and as she moved to a state of understanding, contentment, and gratitude, we were invited to look within, and do the same.
Along with “The Alchemist” and “The Five People You Meet In Heaven,” this is another book that will go down as an all-time favorite.
NOT GOOD FOR: Readers who may be sensitive to works on suicide and self-harm. Nora does decide to end her own life as an escape from the world around her, and although the book has an uplifting ending, it still could be triggering to some.
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE/ SUPERLATIVE: Nora Seed would be nominated, “Most Memorable.”
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