Everything you need to know about the place between life and death…
Within the first twenty-three pages of the book, we learn that thirty-five-year-old Nora Seed is so unhappy with her life that she is about to commit suicide. When she does, she finds herself in a strange place, the Midnight Library. It is the place between life and death where you can not only review your “book of regrets,” but you can try to fix them. You can choose one of those regrets, pull the book off the shelf that contains that portion of your life, go back to that parallel existence, and make different choices.
Speaking of regrets, in those early pages of the book we learn that Nora has many. Here are some of them in no particular order:
- She lives in Bedford, England and was supposed to go to Australia with her friend, Izzy, but did not go. This ended the friendship for some reason.
- To please her father, she pursued a swimming career at one point. When she gave it up, it impacted her relationship with her dad.
- She also has a brother, Joe, from whom she is estranged. They were in a band together called The Labyrinths. But she quit that too impacting his career as well as her own.
- And then there is the fiancé Dan who she left two days before the wedding.
- And I’ll be darned if she couldn’t even keep a relationship with her cat, Voltaire, going. He died, ostensibly hit by a car.
- With all those issues, does it even matter that she was fired from her job at a music store?
This book is structured to give out a life lesson or two. For instance, Nora goes to the parallel existence that includes Izzy only to find out that Izzy is not there! Apparently, Izzy died in a car wreck in that life. So Nora learns she is in control of her choices but not in control of the outcome. We get even more life lessons because Nora’s college degree is in philosophy, so she has a lot of theories on human nature to explore with us. And then there is the librarian at the Midnight Library, could that be the voice of God?
The only complaint I have about the book is that it’s hard to figure out all the logic. For instance, in one life Nora has a child. When she enters that life, where does the current mom go? When she leaves that life, and the original mom comes back, how does the original mom account for all the choices Nora made while she was the mom? And how does all of this impact the child? I can’t figure that out.
I am willing to forgive the book this flaw, however, because I am very fond of books that imagine the hereafter. I respect any author for having the creativity and audacity to give it a try. And in this case, Matt Haig did a particularly fine job!
By the way, here is another book that tackles this issue admirably: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin.
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