Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe, there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point.
Nora Seed finds herself faced with the question: Would any of these other lives truly be better?
Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.Amazon
(If you thought that I might do a horror or a scary book for Halloween… well, no. But I did do 2 horror books for the podcast this month. Interview with the Vampire and The Mothman Prophecies. Feel free to check them out.)
Here is what I knew going into this book: “It is about suicide but it isn’t really about suicide” – My best friend. “It was really good” – My eye doctor.
They were both right.
This is a somewhat slow-moving book set in England with a fair bit of existential crisis and it is firmly in the category of speculative fiction. In fact, it is the sort of speculative fiction that I love… where there is no real sci fi and the “magic” is “science” and the rules/mythos of that magic is totally beside the point.
I like Haig’s style. The chapters are short, humorously named, and the way he unspools the story is well done. This is not a terribly lyrical book and Haig doesn’t waste time on a lot of descriptions of things… this is much more about feelings and introspection. It is a slow-moving quiet sort of book… one might even call it gentle.
Or rather, one character. Our main character is well written. Extremely well written. I rooted for her, I love her, I felt for her, I understood her, I could see bit of me in her and bits of her in me… she is totally unique and yet somehow totally universal. She isn’t a character who will stay with you, leave that to the plot and the questions Haig raises, but she was good company along the way and fit the needs of this book to a tee.
I love the concept of the library itself. I love the idea of multiple realities or the multi-verse. I am hitting middle age and definitely feeling the stings of the doors too far closed and the loss of roads not taken while trying to make sure that I am making the correct choices for the here and now.
I think… that the ending was a bit rushed. We were so very detailed and then we were sort of glossing over things, and I totally understand why that was necessary, but it was a bit disappointing. It’s not a long book and it could have been longer and still been enjoyable. (not sure I have ever written that before!)
The ending is sweet and while not totally surprising, it was still lovely in a bittersweet way.
Entertaining / Would I recommend it?
Yes indeed. It is the sort of book you want to curl up with on a rainy day while sipping tea.
But be warned, it might give you complex dreams or feelings of “what if….” that last for days ( or weeks… especially if you too are in the middle section of your life….)
Note: I lost a friend to suicide 2 years ago and I am still not totally over it. I, therefore, put off reading this book because, well, I didn’t want to read about someone committing suicide. I am glad to report that this book was not triggering in that way. Pretty early on there is an attempt… but based on the tone and the premise, we are 99% sure that it will sta categorized as an “attempt.” HOWEVER, this book made me ugly cry because I really wish the midnight library were real and that Mark could have visited it. It might not have worked for him (his reasons are likely very different from character Nora’s reasons) but still… it did send me down a whole rabbit hole daydream of What If that had nothing to do with *my* life choices and everything to do with *his* final moments. So…. I am glad that I waited to read it, but I am glad to have read it.
Why This Book?
It came out right at the 1 year anniversary of Mark’s death. I planned on never reading it. BUT, when both your best friend and your eye doctor (who probably have zero things in common besides wanting you to not be blind) both say it is good… well, you revisit the idea of reading it.
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?