"The Midnight Library," | Reviewed by Nelson Appell.
In “The Midnight Library,” author Matt Haig takes a depressed, suicidal main character, adds some science fiction, multi-universe possibilities, and offers a terrific, life-affirming book that reminds me of the Jimmy Stewart classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Nora Sneed has let everyone down in her life, including herself. Faced with her own misery, she pens a last letter to “Whoever,” lamenting the life choices she has made. “I have nothing to give. I’m sorry.” With those last words, she prepares to leave the world.
Then she finds herself standing in the mist outside a building. Mrs. Elm, her old school librarian, introduces her to the Midnight Library.
“Between life and death there is a library... And within that library, the shelves go on for ever.” Mrs. Elm offers Nora an opportunity to explore all the infinitely possible lives she could have lived.
Nora has been granted a chance to find a better life where she does have something to give. Though there are infinite lives, Nora does not have infinite time. There are limits. She will have to make choices.
Haig himself struggles with depression, and talks openly about his own suicidal feelings when he was younger. He is grateful that his younger self didn’t take his life when he reached a low point. Now he channels his own experience and wisdom into a loving tale about how a suicidal young woman is granted the chance to reassess her own life.
Haig plays around with his concept of multiple universes and multiple lives—and The Midnight Library. What is it? Where is it? How does it relate to death? Who and what is Mrs. Elm, and who looks like Nora’s old librarian?
In exploring these questions, Haig gets to the emotional core of his characters. He puts their pain and joy on the pages. Haig feels such empathy for all his characters that this empathy becomes the heart of his book.
Imaginative, funny, and sometimes profound, this is a great book for anyone who has ever wondered if their life would have turned out better had they chosen a different path. This is a book for both science fiction fans and for people who think they don’t like science fiction.