Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library is a life-affirming science fiction novel that follows Nora Seed as she lives a multitude of alternate lives while in her “root” life she hovers between life and death following a suicide attempt.

Nora is a 35-year-old Brit who appears to be someone who never maximized her great potential, instead walking away from promising opportunities. She quit swimming although she had Olympic potential; she quit her band right after they signed a record deal; and she even called off her engagement two days before the wedding.

Nora suffered from bouts of depression throughout her life and the darkness comes to a head one day when her cat dies, she loses her job, and she realizes that she is all alone in the world – an orphan with an estranged brother and no real friends. She decides she doesn’t want to live and washes down a handful of pills with a bottle of wine.

Instead of dying right away she goes to the midnight library, which is stocked with an infinite number of books, each representing an alternate life that Nora would have lived had she made different decisions, like not quitting the band or not canceling her wedding.

The midnight library

The books are portals to these different lives, enabling Nora to temporarily live them. She gets to experience a little of the life of an Olympic gold medalist turned motivational speaker, and in another life she and her husband (a stranger) own a successful winery in California.

As these lives unfold, Nora learns important lessons. For example, she learns that these alternate lives aren’t perfect either, not even the one in which she’s an international rock star. She also learns that all the big things she walked away from were other people’s dreams, not hers, and that she really hadn’t pursued her own dreams. And, ultimately, she realizes she doesn’t want to die.

I liked The Midnight Library. It has a good life-affirming message. Nora discovers that, although her root life isn’t great, there are elements of good and she has the power to change what in her life isn’t working. That’s an empowering message.

I also think it’s interesting how the author explores the alternate lives. Most of the lives are based on reversing regrets Nora has had throughout her life. Each alternate life that doesn’t work out erases the associated regret. For example, in one of her lives she experiences a few hours of married life with the fiance she jilted, who turned out to be a demeaning philanderer. Regret gone! This resonated with me on a personal level because I try not to dwell on “what might have been.” I’m more of a “water under the bridge” gal.

It would be really interesting to see if Nora does, in fact, improve her life. Does she continue to strengthen her relationship with her brother? Does she ask out that cute surgeon she was married to in one of her alternate lives? Does she find a more fulfilling job that better leverages her talents? If there’s a sequel, I will read it!

I recommend The Midnight Library to anyone who wants a quick, uplifting read with philosophical undertones.

If you’ve read The Midnight Library, what did you think? What was the last uplifting book you read?

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

    • Thanks, Mary. I hadn’t heard of Harry’s Trees but it looks wonderful and I’ve added it to my library list. I’ve heard Dear Edward is a good one and I loved A Gentleman in Moscow.

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  1. Just added this one to my list after reading your review! Sounds like my kind of book especially since I consider myself someone who tries to look out the windshield instead of the rear view mirror. I look forward to reading it. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Personally, I rated this book 4.25 out of 5.

    My favorite line is: “It was interesting, she mused to herself, how life sometimes simply gave you a whole new perspective by waiting around long enough for you to see it.”

    This quote perfectly described my situation. Had I not patiently waited for life to unfold, I think I wouldn’t be here commenting.

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  3. Well, I did get around to reading this book (mainly because my turn finally came up at the library!) It was an enjoyable read but I still remain undecided on whether I really liked it or not. Perhaps I should have waited a couple of days before commenting? I liked the story of second chances and regrets but in many ways, found the book a bit trite. Everything worked out in the end. Really? I did read that the author has also written children’s books so maybe “happily ever after” is his finish. I don’t mean to be too harsh because I did like the message and it was a novel way of examining our regrets – there’s a lot to carry over from this book to our own personal lives. It’s a great reminder to let things go and continue looking toward the future with joy.

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