#Book Review: The Midnight Library

Author: Matt Haig

WOW, The Midnight Library surprised me. It was a recommendation from one of my book clubs, the British one and I assumed it was one of the books about communities written by British authors, which we normally read. As it turns out, a British author also wrote the Midnight Library, but it is about multiple universes and life philosophy so needless to say, I loved it. We do not normally read these books for a book club as I am the only sci-fi fan so I also got entertained thinking some members would say nah lol

Image credit: Good Reads

The Midnight Library tackles some important questions too, such as depression and suicide, and thus, should be read widely as I believe it can help people take a different perspective. So, the main character is depressed and tries to commit suicide, only to end up in the Midnight Library, a place between life and death where one can open various books and explore how one’s life could have been. In addition to that, the basic philosophy is that all choices we make, no matter how small lead towards our life being what it is but in the multiple universes, we live an infinite number of lives.

The message about these life books that Nora, the main character explores is beautiful. The book says that books are a chance to live a different life, a life we could have lived, which is partially why I like reading. You are taken to a different life, the one you never lived, or you did live something similar, a life of infinite possibilities based on your reading choices. In the opening quote of The Midnight Library, there is also a question asking us, the readers, what would we do differently if we could change something? I loved this because most of my life, I always dreamed about time travel and what I would change if I could, but some time ago in the UK, and then particularly since relocating to the US, I decided that whilst I still love time travel, I would not change anything even if I could because even bad choices pushed me into good choices since I learned from my mistakes. But I still enjoy thinking and reading about multiple universe theory and love all books that tackle that and pretty much any form of sci-fi. In fact, I often say there is no such thing as a bad sci-fi book.

Ultimately, I do believe in the multiple universe theory and trust that in many universes I am a dancer (a hobby I had a few times in my life but never explored and developed), that in some I was born and raised in Britain not just gloriously adopted by that amazing country and of course, I am convinced that in none of the universes do I enjoy overly spicy food, apart from the American hot sauce, which is one of a kind and a glorious exception to the usual rule I apply in this life 😊

However, the Midnight Library is much more than just a multiple-universe sci-fi book. As I mentioned, it tackles suicide and tries to create a positive message of every life being worth living, which I also enjoyed and appreciated enormously. In addition to that, I liked how the author tackled social media’s fake happiness and how it affects people who are struggling such as Nora in this book who has a horrible day with losing a job, her cat dying, losing a pupil she has been teaching piano lessons and then also thinks her good friend who lives in Australia abandoned her along with her brother visiting their home town and not coming to see her because, as she thinks, still hates her for ditching the music band they had previously with a record contract on offer. This all happens in one day and is arguably a lot to take with social media not helping. The book describes this through an initial series of chapters starting ‘xyz’ hours before Nora decided she wanted to die, which was very original. After she attempts suicide, she goes to the already mentioned Midnight Library and then starts the exploration of her many lives with a rule being to find the perfect life so as soon as she does not like her life, she is pulled back and she goes to another one. Another beautiful thing is that this journey starts from the Book of Regrets and Nora has many due to never finishing what she started or following her many dreams, which happened due to a depression. This was also an interesting touch.

I particularly enjoyed the description of the Midnight Library and life books of Nora’s life, such as every book providing a chance to try another life you could have lived if you made different decisions to see how things would have been different. Thus, every book in the Midnight Library is a version of Nora’s life and everyone’s life could have ended up in an infinite number of ways.

The book also attempts to discuss quantum physics in one conversation with a person Nora has, in one of her many lives about how this actually works. The author illustrates this by mentioning Schrodinger’s cat and saying that in quantum physics every alternative possibility happens simultaneously, all at once and in the same place, which is a quantum superposition. Thus, life is like a box and after the box is opened the cat is still both alive and dead because things will be different in different universes. I loved this description and there is a good article explaining this theory in a way everyone can understand at MIT Press. The notion of multiple universes is not new in popular culture generally, but I enjoyed this interpretation particularly since the author intends to show that every life is an infinite line of possibilities and that if we pay a bit more attention, we can find people who care, make some choices and make life work. This storyline reminded me of the film, It’s a Wonderful Life, which shows the character what life would have been without him and thus discourages suicide,  

The writing style is compelling and the stories of Nora and the lives that she could have lived are very diverse and original. In a way, Nora goes on a journey of self-discovery and sees things from her root life and analyses it until she has to make a decision on whether to live or die and if live, which life…

I loved this. Very thoughtful and inspiring.

Thank you for reading!

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