Review: The Midnight Library
Updated: May 6, 2022
The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig (2020)
I started this one last year and only got about a chapter in before stopping. I thought I was just sort of in the wrong mindset to get into it at that point. This year I read it for my book club (we meet next week onMay 5 to discuss - message me if you want to attend!), and it still just wasn't for me. But I finished it.
This is a multi-verse (or parallel universe?) story where an infinite number of books live in a library that you get to visit when you die... or right before you die, I guess, because you can make the decision to choose one of these other lives, or go back to your "original" life, or stick around and book-hop forever. Each book represents a different regret for the protagonist, Nora Seed - if only she'd stuck with that high school band, if only she'd married that man, if only she'd gone to Australia with her best friend, if only... By opening up a book in the library, she can dive into that "other" life and see how things would have worked out if she'd made a different choice. What happens, as it turns out, is that mostly she's just not a particularly happy person in any of those alternate lives, and eventually discovers that she can figure out how to make a happy life in her original timeline.
I found this book incredibly repetitive, heavy-handed, and a little depressing. It had a self-help vibe (which is not my thing), and really seemed to fixate on "profound" yet cliché messages that I might expect to see on, like, Gwyneth Paltrow's Instagram page. It was a tedious read (I ended up skimming a lot of the latter half). I'm truly lost as to what has got people so excited about it - even some very close friends who I usually agree with on books!
Part of it is that for me it comes after having seen Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse, and Everything Everywhere All At Once - both of which were exceptional. By comparison, the book paled. I just didn't feel like its multi-verse theme was interesting, or particularly well thought out. To sum up, here is a quote from my friend Zach, who did not enjoy it: "Self-help manual masquerading as mediocre fiction."
UP NEXT: Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer