Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

April 12, 2021 – Sarah Vohsen, Adult Services

This column was first published in the April 2021 issue of The Best Years (TBY).

Nora loses her job, her cat, and her only piano student in a single afternoon. She falls into despair as the last meaningful parts of her life disappear. And as the day ends, Nora realizes she doesn’t want to live anymore. Now Nora waits for the handful of pills she swallowed to end her life. But just as midnight arrives, Nora finds herself in front of an enormous library.

Upon entering she sees an expansive collection of books, each of which holds a life Nora could have if she’d made different decisions. Nora has the chance to test drive the many lives she never lived and see the outcomes of her greatest regrets. Until she finds the perfect life, she is stuck in the Midnight Library between the life she tried to end and a death she may not want anymore. But Nora must race against time, because if she dies in her original life before she figures out what she wants, Nora won’t have a future at all.

Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library is the second book I’ve read by this author. In both books, Haig ties magical concepts into a realistic world, and the way he does this is creative and creates a story that balances realism and fantastical elements well. This book is directly tied to Nora’s depression and her experience through living her many lives, so at times, the lessons she learns may seem a bit overt. Overall, though, the writing was done well, and I enjoyed the novel, especially because of its unique premise.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys magical elements in realistic worlds. If this sounds interesting, I would also suggest trying The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer and Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore. Both novels follow characters who travel to different versions of their lives. All three of these books are available at the Cape Girardeau Public Library.

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