The Midnight Library Review

Photo by Devang Punia on Unsplash

The Midnight Library is a book that focuses on regrets, hope and forgiveness. The author, Matt Haig, is well known for his other books focusing on self and mental health such as Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet. Haig uses the character Nora to explore how we view life and regrets. On the surface you read Nora making decisions in the “library” between life and death, but as Nora lives each life she thought would be perfect you begin to recognise that not every positive decision made will lead to a perfect life.

Haig wonderfully depicts Nora’s anxiety and worries at the start and a second character of her old school librarian provides both the reader and Nora with comfort as she navigates her journey through each her lives. When in the library Nora gets the gift to reverse each decision she’s ever made and gets to live the life it resulted in. Throughout the novel Haig provides insight in how anxiety, no matter how small can overwhelm us all. The story of Nora’s journey helps show us, the readers, how any decision big or small will mean something to you and the only way you can have the ‘dream’ or ‘perfect’ life is to just live as you want. 

In The Midnight Library the theme of time is just as important as it is in the real world, Nora is stuck in the library so long as it is midnight. By creating this set of circumstances for Nora to explore all her possible lives Haig allows us to read multiple different stories in one book. The Midnight Library allows the readers to view limitless possibility, as Nora explores new roads and thus new lives lived. Haig creates a whole different world available to us and mimics the similarities to the theory of the multiverse. The narrative of The Midnight Library imitates that of the Many Worlds Theory, first proposed in 1957 by Hugh Everett the 3rd. This is where there is the assumption that every event exists as a wave function and once observed branches into its own unique world-line. This results in every possible outcome of every situation existing in physical reality. This is exactly what The Midnight Library explores. For Nora the access to her other lives is through the library itself. 

A lot of experts think the multiverse it true and one implication would be that there are parallel physical realities where anything and everything can happen. This means that, like Nora, you have done or will do everything you could possibly conceive of, however without the fictional Midnight Library you will not be able to access these lives. Similar to the novel, the ‘many worlds’ theory suggests that there are literally billions and billions of versions of you therefore there’s world lines where you’ve been both the enemy and the hero, the saviour and the villain. 

As humans we confine ourselves with time, ‘because I’m 20’ or ‘when I’m 30 I’ll …’ we attack age as a weakness, but this book helps us slow down and recognise that each and every one of us are living our “root” lives for the first time. This is shown through Nora’s journey as she recognises that the life she left was the one she wanted because it was hers, made by all of her own decisions. We each get so caught up in ‘well if only I had done this instead of that’ and ponder on both small and large regrets. In the book Haig expertly creates a scenario where the main character gets to read her own “Book of Regrets” and even gets to live out all possible lives made with decisions she herself did not take, yet she still yearns for her own life in the end. Haig uses this tale to remind us how we all have the power to create our own fulfilment in life and to not let the concept of “perfection” greatly impact out decisions.  

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