The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Page Count: 288
Original Publication Date: 2020
Genre(s): Adult fiction, Magical realism, Contemporary
Nora Seed is not living her best life. At 35, she has just lost her job, her cat, her only piano tutoring student, and even the minor responsibility of assisting her elderly neighbor. She has nothing, and because of that, she decides she wants to die. Instead of meeting death, she winds up in a strange library where she can choose various parallel lives of hers to live in, and even stay in one if she’s happy there. But is there a perfect life for her out there? Or, if not perfect, one better than her current life?
I’ve always been fascinated by parallel lives, the multiverse, etc. One of my favorite Taylor Jenkins Reid books (In Another Life) has a similar plot. I adored watching the Loki series on Disney+ this year and look forward to the upcoming Marvel films revolving around the multiverse. That one episode of Community where Jeff creates alternative timelines was both hilarious and fascinating. It’s just such an interesting topic. I’d be shocked if any one of us on Earth has never thought, how would my life be different if I had done this or hadn’t done that. Imagine getting to actually see and experience those parallel lives.
Okay, back on topic. I was very excited to read The Midnight Library. It won a Goodreads Choice Award, plenty of my friends recommended it, and it was all over TikTok. So naturally I picked it up and gave it a read. It’s told in third-person POV from Nora’s perspective. The novel starts so strongly, with misfortune after misfortune occurring in Nora’s life. The depression was palpable and relatable. I really felt seen.
But as the book progressed, I lost interest. I emotionally detached from Nora. I felt bored. When she meets Hugo, I started to gain interest again, but it kept petering out. Some lives were fun to read about, but many others just seemed to bore me. The scenes where Nora is in the library actually bored me most of all.
Not only did the plot let me down, but the writing… it just wasn’t my style. It was not subtle about anything. It almost felt self-help book-y. Very matter of fact, in your face, here’s the lesson printed in capital letters so you don’t miss it. I didn’t have to work for anything. It felt almost corny or cheesy at times. I think the writing definitely contributed to my lack of emotional connection to Nora or to the story as a whole.
I don’t think this was the right book for me. It wasn’t bad. It was unique, and on a topic I really enjoy, but it just didn’t check enough boxes for me. If you’re on the fence about reading it, I do think you should, but don’t get your expectations too high like I did. Pretty bummed about this one!