Second Chances And Supernatural Libraries

Author: Matt Haig

Nora Seed is ready to die. There is nothing left but to take too many pills, lie down in her lonely apartment, die, and be forgotten. So, when Nora awakens from her death sleep to find herself alone in a giant library, she is perplexed. In this unstable library with its rows after rows of green books, she has  a final chance to see the ramifications of every decision, the endless different lives that could have been, that unspool from small and large changes. If she likes one of these lives, she can slip right into it, have the perfect second chance. If she doesn’t, well, she can just go ahead and die. And, initially, this is what she wants, but the otherworldly librarian convinces her to look – just a little. Would her life have been better if she had stuck with her childhood swimming dream, if she had gone on that trip with her friend, if she had married her fiancé, if she had made up with her dad, if she had kept her cat from going outside on that fateful night?

There are as many lives as there are minute decisions. Some of them are average and some are dramatic. Some are good. Some are bad. But are any of them right?

The Midnight Library is a truly powerful book. One of those that you start reading and instantly think: this, this is a BOOK. Matt Haig paints a bleak but relatable portrait of a normal life that has slowly spiraled. It’s easy to see ourselves as Nora. Some of us have, indeed, been Nora at certain points of our lives. It’s easy to empathize with the dissolution of hope, the tiredness, the loneliness. How then can the story, which has taken us so (rightfully) low, bring us and our dying heroine hope?

Image by 0fjd125gk87 from Pixabay

We’ve all speculated about what would have happened if we had done something different. If we had kept up with that hobby, tried harder with that friend, gone out that day instead of staying home. Well, here then is the supernatural, poignant, gut-wrenching, tear inducing answer, all at the most fabulous of places: a library that straddles the realms of life and death, a second chance full of limitless pages and so many different endings. But even in the Midnight Library the clock ticks. Nora only has a little time, but she has so many choices, and in some ways that may be even worse than her dead-end, hopeless life.

Haig captures the tone of each life, slipping between them with the magic and sleight of hand reserved for the best fairy stories. And indeed, this is a modern-day fairy tale with a flawed but hopeful heroine, a lot of magic, and inevitably, a morale. It’s beautiful and surprisingly hopeful in the end. We get caught up in each life, wanting to follow it to the end, believing in it and watching as Nora slips from world to world, hope to hope, realized dream to realized dream, only to make the final decision, the one we are screaming for her to make. The only right one.

This book will, no doubt, be labeled a classic eventually. It is engaging and thoughtful, provoking and raw and beautiful. Highly recommended.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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