Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

by Heather Caliendo
the midnight libray review - book club chat

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is such a fantastic novel. I loved it.

As I mentioned in my October book club list, Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time was one of the first articles I wrote for the site. If that article hadn’t received great traffic, who knows where Book Club Chat would be now! Plus, I liked the story—it was a little melancholy but overall an interesting take on the time travel genre.

When I saw he had a new one coming out this year—I was very excited to see what he had in store! But wow, I didn’t expect to love The Midnight Library like I did. It’s a very heartfelt and touching novel. One of my favorites of this year.

The synopsis

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Creative premise

Ahh I love the premise!! I thought it was such a fascinating take on the “what if” type storyline. In 2020, (which all these books are written pre-pandemic), I’ve noticed there’s been a focus on the impact of choices. Prior to The Midnight Library, I read The Book of Two Ways, which also examines the “what could have been?” type concept. And both of these novels mention multiverses! Maybe they were watching some Endgame as they wrote these, haha.

Anyway, so we meet Nora and she’s down on her luck in every way. She’s carrying a lot of baggage, mainly because everyone seems to blame her for their own problems. If Nora had done this—maybe this would have been the result, etc. So she, at age 35, is already living a life full of regrets. How sad is that? But I’m sure people can relate to that. Mid-30s is enough time to look back and see where things could have gone differently but of course, it’s not too late to make a change. But for Nora, she thinks it’s all too late.

However, The Midnight Library is full of possibilities and shows her what would have happened if she made a different choice in life such as marrying her ex-boyfriend or if she continued her swim career. Each time she steps into an alternate reality, she learns some very key lessons along the way.

What’s fulfilling in life

If you haven’t read Matt Haig’s stories before, they are actually quite philosophical in many ways. In fact, Nora was a philosophy major in college, so we have plenty of that thought process as she experiences all the different realities. This is one way I feel that his stories rise above others with similar concepts—truly pondering what is fulfilling in life?

As you read the story, you might know where it will end up—but as always, the key is the journey itself. I loved how everything wrapped up. I want to say more but no spoilers here!!! Just know I think this is well worth your time.

I highly recommend this for book clubs. There’s so much to talk about with this one. Check out my book club questions here.

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