Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Content has spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Have you ever asked yourself “where will I go when I die?” has it ever crossed your mind? In a world filled with different beliefs, I think we all have our own Midnight Library.

In the past months, I’ve been seeing posts about this book. Either they are posts from bookstores or from people who have read it. The last time I read a book that was for my entertainment was back in 2015, I’ve been in a reading slump for a long while. Since I am (sort of) new to the book community, I gave in and read the books most of the bookstagrammers and booktok creators recommended – I thought it might bring back my love for reading. It did not disappoint, I loved every bit of it.

"Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of the small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford."

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I scanned the synopsis of it in Goodreads but I didn’t look into it further. So when I read the first line in the book, it immediately caught my attention. I knew that this wasn’t going to be like the books I’ve read before. I thought the book was going to be a slow paced one, turns out it isn’t. It’s the word ‘decided’, that made me think of how the story was going to progress. In my head, I tried to figure out what the plot is. Maybe the protagonist (Nora Seed), will end her existence after she realizes that she doesn’t have anything to hold on to anymore, or while she is facing death – then she will know why she should hold on. My guess was kind of right (kind of, ok?). Nora ended her existence because of a life filled with disappointments and hardship. She was in the middle of life and death when she woke up at the Midnight Library, where ‘Mrs. Elm’ – her favorite librarian back when she was in elementary – and demands to go to the other side where death waits for her. Mrs. Elm said she cannot, she still has to wait. Her body in her root life is the one that makes the existence of the midnight library present. If she gives up, then she’ll take the library with her.

Want... is an interesting word. It means lack. Sometimes if we fill that lack with something else the original want disappears entirely. Maybe you have a lack problem rather than a want problem. Maybe there is a life you really want to live.

‘Mrs. Elm’, The Midnight Library

Nora wanted to end everything. In her life experience, she’s had a lot of downs rather than the ups, she never felt loved, she felt like she was a reject in life – so why continue? The first book ever given to her by the ‘librarian’ was The Book of Regrets. The longer she read what was inside of it, the more she felt like she was being suffocated, the book that looks like it’s not heavy, suddenly weighs tons. I thought, maybe that’s how regret feels. If we think about it everyday – the thing that we didn’t do – it becomes heavier and heavier. We bring the burden on our shoulder. Even if that regret is small as a pebble – it can still feel like a boulder if we engrave it in our mind.

The library was filled with endless shelves of books, all of which are for Nora only. With every book Nora opens, she enters a life that could’ve been. A life where she could’ve been if she pursued her life long dream, a life where she could’ve been if she pushed through with her hobby of playing the piano, a life where she could’ve been anyone she ever wanted, and be with whoever she wanted. Of course, a life that we dream of always has a downfall in exchange. Mrs. Elm, the one in the Midnight Library, guided Nora to make her decisions in the story. She did not tell her where to go and what book to open, she helped her realize the things that she should’ve when she was still in the living side.

"Never underestimate the big importance of small things."

‘Mrs. Elm’, The Midnight Library

This quote was repeated a lot of times in the story, because it does make sense. The more I read it, the more I’ve reflected with my past decisions in my life. This book has affected my perspective in life. It gave me more to think of, on how I should take on life. Nora, on the other hand, took a while before she could fully understand what the Midnight Library was for. She felt a lot of emotions, disappointment, anger, grief, and happiness. She almost gave up when she began feeling overwhelmed again, but Mrs. Elm helped her through it.

For everyone, our midnight library may not be the same. Maybe yours is a midnight café where – instead of books to read – you’ll have drinks to taste and it can bring you to your supposed life, or a midnight flower shop – where you have tons of flowers to pick from and it can represent a life where you will be. I’m not sure as to what mine will be. Because I think, we go to our midnight place where the person who helped us in the significant time in our life works or goes to. Something that connects the place and the ‘person’ who will be our guide.

As the story ends, my favorite part was when Nora found her reason to live. She gained hope and trust in living again. She finally knows how to approach life even if the things to are unexpected. She doesn’t dwell on the negative side anymore. The small detail of the story that I liked was when it started with Mrs. Elm in the library in Hazeldene School and ended with Mrs. Elm and Nora at a home for the elderly.

This is what fascinates me. The idea of Matt Haig was made into a book which gives me clarity in a question I had for a very long time. I think it awaken a part in my subconscious mind. In the book, Nora was somehow connected in her root life to everyone she’s been with in her other lives. You can say that it is a small world after all. We are connected in every way possible. I think this gives us endless possibilities in being whoever we want to be.

I recommend this book to anyone who’s having questions about why they’re at a certain point in their life, having doubts with their decisions, and for those who want to get out of their reading slump.

"So let's be kind to the people in our own existence. Let's occasionally look up from the spot in which we are because, wherever we happen to be standing, the sky above us goes on for ever."

Nora Seed, The Midnight Library

Published by STAR

22 year old woman born and raised in the Philippines. I read a book to get by the day.

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