Ever wondered what it would be like if you took a different path in life? Ended up with someone else, pursued another career, honed another talent, or lived abroad? Exploring the theory that parallel universes do exist, and therefore the possibility of parallel lives, applying that to mental health, add in some fantasy and philosophy, along with the heavy burden of regret that comes with the overwhelming nature of the infinite possibilities our path could take in modern life, and you have The Midnight Library. A place situated between life and death where you can explore the multiple lives you are capable of, but in reality cannot possibly live, trying each one on for size. This concept is fascinating, thought provoking and incredibly relatable.
Nora Seed is 35 years old, estranged from her family and close friend, living alone, and still in the town she grew up in. Although she is full of many talents, her life just hasn’t gone as planned. We meet her one particular day that is taking an especially bad downward spiral. We know that Nora suffers from situational depression, and the combination of her current situation, alongside all of the other burdens she is carrying around, just becomes too much for her to bear and she decides to end it all. But, instead of dying, she finds herself in The Midnight Library.
Striving for a ‘perfect life’ is all too common. It is something we see reflected back at us daily on social media without any realties taken into account. It really is no surprise the mental health crisis we find ourselves in, making the exploration of what success and happiness looks like in this book very timely and important. Haig really takes into account the multifaceted nature of our personalities, which, like Nora in the book, all too often leaves us with regret about whether we should have focused on a different aspect of who we are, instead of our reality. The only problem with these ‘day dreams’ are that they never seem to reflect the imperfections that will inevitably follow from one life to the next, they might just be different ones. “Because too often our view of success is about some external bullshit idea of achievement – an Olympic medal, the ideal husband, a good salary. And we have all these metrics that we try and reach. When really success isn’t something you measure, and life isn’t a race you can win.”
Matt Haig is a British writer predominant for his work on mental health. In his mid twenties Haig developed a deep depression that resulted in him nearly taking his own life. Now a best selling author who claims his depression made him into a writer, he uses his darkest days to reach a wide audience through his multiple books, and also on his Instagram account, which if you aren’t already following then I suggest you do.
This book sounds like it should be heavy due to the themes of regret, depression and suicide, however it is more like a ballad sung as a pop song. The writing is light, and easily digestible. This metaphor isn’t meant in anyway to be dismissive to the very serious issues this book is exploring. It is meant instead as a compliment to Haig’s ability to write something that, just like a pop song, appeals to such a wide audience meaning the important message inside can spread far and wide. Had it been more like a ballad and it very easily could have been too heavy to absorb. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to anyone and especially to those who have enjoyed the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series. What’s also great is this book isn’t long, and can be gobbled up easily over the space of a weekend.
This book is a hug of reassurance that everyone needs. While I wont give anything away I just need to add that the ending is just wonderful, it is uplifting, positive and full of hope and left me with a great big smile on my face and a renewed sense of feeling very grateful for my own imperfect life. And who wouldn’t want to read a book that can do that?