The Midnight Library
The Midnight Library follows Nora Seed as first her cat dies on the road, then she loses her job, then she commits suicide, and then she lands in a library. The library is a magical place where she can choose any book and transport to another life in a parallel universe. Each book is a different version of her life where she made one decision earlier that changed everything that came after.
Warning! Spoilers below for Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library!
But before Nora can choose one of these portals, the librarian instructs her to read the Book of Regrets. As the name suggests, the book records every regret from Nora’s life from “I wish I hadn’t given my cat the pretentious name Voltaire” to “I wish I had married Dan”. The first thing that comes to mind for me is regretting not getting a haircut in February 2020.
After reading her regrets, Nora chooses a book and lives out a life without that regret. Does she wish she moved with her best friend, Izzie, to Australia? Boom, she lives in Melbourne, swims every day, and works as a lifeguard.
Each book transports Nora — and I — to another place. Given I can’t travel, I lose myself to Nora the arctic explorer or Nora the pop sensation, or Nora the gold medal Olympian.
In the life where she didn’t let her cat outside, Nora still finds her cat dead and learns her cat had a chronic health condition. Nora realizes she didn’t kill her cat. On the contrary, Nora provided her cat a full life. And when it was time to go, her cat left so that Nora wouldn’t have to see its dead body.
It’s the classic story of regrets and living out the missed splendors that often play out in the mind. The story reminds the reader regretting is easy but remembering all the people touched is hard and worthwhile. If Nora hadn’t stayed in the town she grew up, then she wouldn’t have been able to teach guitar and keep kids of trouble.
Is the book science fiction or meant to be a reality where the midnight library happens in Nora’s head? Is she imagining the characters? Or are the characters imagining her? I ended the book without those answers but with a happy feeling inside.