A Library of Lost Decisions
The Midnight Library
By: Matt Haig
You probably thought I forgot about my blog. I apologize for the two-week hiatus. Holiday time and my kids being home for most of last week definitely slowed me down. Now that most of us are back in 50% lockdown, I am sure you can all use some good reads.
I have to thank my good friend Linda for recommending this book to me. Her recommendation came to me at exactly the right time, just when I needed it most.
The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, is the story of Nora Seed. Nora is a 30-something young woman who feels as if she has nothing more to live for. She has come to the end of her rope. She’s been let go from her job at a music store, has broken off her engagement to Dan, her longtime boyfriend, has lost both her mother and father, her brother is no longer speaking with her, and her cat Voltaire has just died. Could life possibly get any worse?
Nora is sad, depressed, and regretful of all the bad choices she feels she has made in her life. She also clearly suffers from depression because she uses her antidepressants to end her life. Or so she thinks.
After Nora has overdosed on her antidepressants she wakes up in a library. However, it is not just any library, it is the Midnight Library and all of the books on the shelves are books about the different lives she could have led had she made different choices. The books are only about her life and the different decisions she could have made to change the course of her life. Among the thousands of books, there is one very important book, The Book of Regrets, Nora’s own regrets and this book will change everything.
The most important and slightly odd part of the Midnight Library is the fact that the librarian is the librarian from Nora’s primary school in Bedford, England; Mrs. Elm. One of the people in her earlier life who was kind to her at a time when she needed kindness the most.
Mrs. Elm explains that the Midnight Library is a place that people go “when they find themselves hanging precariously between life and death and not entirely sure about which way to go.” Mrs. Elm also tells Nora that “Every life contains many millions of decisions. Some big, some small. But every time one decision is taken over another, the outcomes differ. An irreversible variation occurs, which in turn leads to further variations. These books are portals to all the lives you could be living.”
The library is filled with a lifetime of regrets and endless possibilities. It is now up to Nora to decide what book she wants to live in. Mrs. Elm says she can pick any book and see what her life would have turned out to be in the book. If it isn’t the life for her, she will be returned back to the library. If it is the right life, she may never return.
As you can imagine, all kinds of lives are in these books. There is a life when her father never dies. A life where her brother isn’t mad at her. A life when she marries her former fiancé, Dan. A life where she goes on a trip to Australia with her best friend from University, Izzie. A life where she doesn’t quit swimming and goes on to become an Olympic swimmer; her father’s dream for her. There are endless possibilities and with every possibility of a life, Nora’s book of regrets becomes emptier and emptier. This may not make sense to you, but once you come to understand Nora, you will see that her life was filled with regrets because she always thinks she had made the wrong decisions. The Midnight Library has allowed her to see what that life would have been like if she hadn’t made what she perceives to be the “wrong” decision.
I have always tried to live my life having few regrets. Having lost a parent at a young age, I understand how precious life is and I try to seize the moment. Of course, I have had a few regrets and have made some bad decisions. No human could ever get through life without some regrets. My biggest include that I never studied abroad in college, and I never moved anywhere besides the tri-state area as I wished I had experienced life in a different place. Overall, I love my life and I try to live remembering that this is my only life and I should always live for the moment. I could definitely yell at my children a little less, be less impatient with people, and stop worrying too much about things beyond my control. And most importantly, I need to tell the people closest to me how much I love them every single day.
But the big choices I have made about my life partner, my three beautiful children, the people I have surrounded myself with, “my tribe”, are all things that I will never regret. I would say overall, I am very content with the decisions I have made.
Nora is not so content because she has lost her way. She has no one around her that she loves, they are all gone and I believe that this is why she feels so hopeless. There is a silver lining for Nora and for anyone who feels this way. Nora and all of us have the power to change the course of things in our lives with or without the Midnight Library. But for the purpose of writing this beautiful story, the Midnight Library is a metaphor for giving yourself the time to reflect on decisions you have made in your life and having the power to change things. Because we all do have the power to change that which makes us unhappy. If anything, I hope this is what you walk away with after you have finished this enlightening book about loss, reflection, and hope. Hope and faith are the two things that pave the path for a better future. Let’s hope that everyone reading this can find the hope and faith to pave the way to a better 2021.
The Midnight Library
By: Matt Haig
Publication Date: September 29, 2020