The Midnight Library by Matt Haig brings us a story of a woman’s desperation for a life she has never had and most probably will never get, a life without regrets. After years of despair and regret concerning her current life and past decisions, she finds herself in the one place that may give her the opportunity to live the life she has always wanted: The Midnight Library.
This is a place that provides the basis of the story; it is where Nora, the protagonist of the story, ends up reflecting on her life decisions. It is a mysterious place between life and death where Nora can dive into all the possibilities she could have pursued had her life not gotten so complicated. It is here that she finally has her chance to discover how her life could have gone had she made a few different choices.
Throughout reading The Midnight Library, we see Nora grow and develop as a character. Once a depressed and lonely woman with not much to live for, we see her rise-up and face her inner demons. She represents a want that most people have in common to some degree which is to live without regrets. It is a universal experience that prompts us to question how our lives would have gone had we not made certain decisions that looking back, probably weren’t the best.
Readers follow Nora as she lives out the fantasies and nightmares, of how her life might have gone, which makes her very relatable as many people would jump at the idea of visiting the places where their ‘what if’s’ live.
Another interesting and significant aspect of Nora was that through her journey, not only did she discover different lives, but she also discovered different aspects of herself she didn’t know she had. Like what happens to the best of us at some point or another, Nora had simply lost her way and felt something in her life was missing. The story brings forward the notion that no matter how many lives you lead or how many different passions or potentials you pursue if one does not feel full and whole by themselves then no number of do-overs or different choices are going to be enough. What can be a complex message to portray was done in a very human and emotional way and that holds the reader’s full attention.
A fascinating concept in the book is that life is not only made up of what we can see but is also heavily shaped and transformed by our perspective. A phrase Haig uses numerous times toward the end of the book is “it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see”. This is a message that is waiting to be delivered throughout the whole book. This message comes after much struggle, but it is Nora’s struggle that makes the message even more valuable and meaningful when you do reach the make-or-break moment of the story.
One of the best ways to share these messages is through storytelling, by connecting to another’s experience, whether by means of a fictional or true story, it is easier to understand these concepts.
Matt Haig has often spoken publicly about his own mental health struggles and when it came to creating Nora’s character the raw and honest depiction of mental and emotional struggles was palpable. He impressively intertwines the mystical story of a purgatory library with Nora’s relatable struggles. He used the story as an uplifting way of showing how one might navigate the waters of regret and this subtly reminds us to make the best of what we have while we can.
While the plot of The Midnight Library is fiction, the emotions and experiences of the characters are truthful and relatable. The life lessons imparted by Matt Haig through Nora are hard to ignore and, when implemented into our own lives, very liberating. He wonderfully tells a story of a person who is struggling to stay afloat in today’s world, a story many of us know all too well. Throughout the book, the author asks the key question: if you had a chance to undo all your regrets and live a different life with alternative outcomes, would you do it or would you accept where you are now and keep going with the life you already have?
Whether you dream of being a rock star, an entrepreneur, an accountant, a teacher, a parent, or a chef, why wait until the next life to make it happen?