Book Content Warning: suicide, death, mental illness, drug use, and mild sexual content.
“Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on for ever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be different if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’”
-The Midnight Library”
April 4-10, the week before our quarter started, was National Library Week. Additionally, April is National School Library Month. To honor both, I decided to read “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig, and I was not prepared for the story that unraveled.
After the death of her beloved cat, losing her job, realizing she let down everyone around her and gave up all her hopes and dreams, Nora Seed decides she wants to die. But death isn’t at all as it seems. She wakes up, at midnight, in a seemingly-endless library. The librarian, who takes on the form of Mrs. Elm, Nora’s beloved school librarian from her childhood, shows Nora that she isn’t quite dead. Rather, Nora has a decision to make.
Within the library, she can choose a book to see what her life would have looked like had she not given up on her current regrets. Nora, though, still feels life is not worth living and travels to her various alternative lives: a world where she didn’t leave her fiancé, one where she stayed in her brother’s band, another where she pursued a career in glaciology, and many more. After all, the library is full of endless possibilities. However, none of the lives are satisfying, and nothing is as it seems.
But Nora doesn’t have long. The library around her is shattering and going dark. She has a choice to make: to choose one of the lives from her many books to continue to live within, or to die as she originally intended.
I have struggled with depression and mental illness since childhood and this book really hit a soft spot in my heart that I didn’t know was there. I’ve spent so much of my life feeling like Nora that I could relate to the book very well, and I think many other people do, too. We often consider what possibilities would have been in our life had we taken the plunge into a scary situation, stayed with a special person, or even done something differently to keep a family member closer. This book really sheds light on how, even if our lives may have seemed better if we made certain decisions, that really isn’t the case at all. We should be happy with who we are and where we are now, and if we take a moment to wait, things may turn out differently than we expect.