Genre: Fantasy; Fiction
Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5 / 5
I picked up The Midnight Library by Matt Haig last year after seeing the hype on Bookstagram and Goodreads. My expectations were high and maybe that’s why I was more critical of this novel than others I’ve read.
The Midnight Library lives in the space between life and death with endless shelves full of every possible life you could live. All you have to do is decide what choices you want to change and open a new book to experience all that particular life has to offer you. You can change a regret – like giving up on a dream you had as a child – or something small – like not saying yes to that date.
Our main character, Nora Seed, finds herself in the Midnight Library holding a heavy book full of her life’s regrets and working her way through all of the ways she could have avoided those regrets. But, of course, nothing turns out the way she thinks and there is no magical solution for a perfect life. She follows different career paths, undoes break-ups, says yes to things she previously avoided, and experiences her lives full of dreams she never followed.
And although it was the hype that brought me here, it’s time to share my unpopular opinion – this book did not change my life. Maybe I’m too cynical or just wasn’t in the right mental space, but this was not the book for me.
Disclaimer: I rarely like books or stories with a neat and happy ending and I’m never a fan of a predictability.
From the moment we arrived in the Midnight Library with Nora, I knew how this novel was going to end. It was well written and a fun read, but it was also predictable.
I also found it unreasonable that Nora would be wildly successful at every career path she chose. Life doesn’t work out that way – we can’t just decide to be an Olympic athlete or a world renowned scientist. Sometimes, we decide to follow a dream and it doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would.
All that to say – there are some beautiful parts of this novel. Matt Haig is a spectacular writer and it’s apparent on every page of this book.
“Nora had always had a problem accepting herself. From as far back as she could remember, she’d had the sense that she wasn’t enough. Her parents, who both had their own insecurities, had encouraged that idea.
“She imagined, now, what it would be like to accept herself completely. Every mistake she had ever made. Every mark on her body. Every dream she hadn’t reached or pain she had felt. Every lust or longing she had suppressed.
“She imagined accepting it all. The way she accepted nature. The way she accepted a glacier or a puffin or the breach of a whale.
“She imagined seeing herself as just another brilliant freak of nature. Just another sentient animal, trying their best.
“And in doing so, she imagined what it was like to be free.”
In this chapter Matt Haig captures a struggle that is so human, something I think we all struggle with and should all be working toward. At the heart, this chapter sums up what this novel is about – not focusing on our regrets and how we can change ourselves, but learning to love ourselves no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done.
I know my rating here isn’t high, but if you are someone who loves a feel good story – I recommend this novel. I guess I’m more of a doom and gloom reader.