Thank goodness for Matt Haig. His newest book, The Midnight Library, I deliberately held over until 2021 to ring in the New Year. Thankfully, I had it to keep me company Wednesday while I watched the White House siege. Unbelievable news and videos that still have me reeling make me more thankful than ever for the pure joy of reading.
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. from Goodreads.
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 first line of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
My heart dropped at this, the opening line. I was sitting at my table staring at this book and wondered if I really had the strength and mental energy to read a book that is clearly about suicide. Next to me were two more books that I just could not get into. I felt thrown back to the thick of 2020 and started panicking that I would be dropped into another reading slump in the first week of January. The world was still insane and I need my books!
I had to remind myself that one of the really wonderful thing about Matt Haig is his openness about his mental health. You don’t have to look hard into this author’s background or read too many of his books to know that he deals with anxiety and depression and he also contemplated suicide. After reading so many of his books last year I trust that if Haig is bringing up mental health, he is doing it with purpose and sensitivity. I needed to trust for a little bit longer….. and so I did.
If I had stopped, closed the book at 20 pages, I would have told you that I didn’t particularly like Nora Seed. She wrapped herself in a blanket of sadness that she had been lovingly knitting for years and it made me frustrated. Not frustrated by her depression, but that it was so clearly under-treated. I have lost friends to the insidiousness of suicide and that makes you immediately worried when someone is this hopeless about everything in their life. If you have never struggled with it or been faced with loving someone with depression, maybe you will hate Nora Seed. But, please, don’t give up on her. That’s what I decided, that I wouldn’t give up on Nora. I made myself another cup of coffee and tucked in, determined to give Nora a chance.
The chance I gave this character, the hope I had for her, paid off enormously. Once I committed, I finished The Midnight Library quickly. And, while the over arching theme and plot might have been things I could have predicted at the beginning, the journey has stayed with me. Nora’s knowledge gained, the advice given throughout her adventures in time and in space, those are the sections of the book I have flipped back to time and time again for the past few days. It wasn’t about where Nora started or where she ended up, it was the journey and the realizations. This book let me contemplate where I saw myself on the rainbow of Nora’s experiences.
I wonder, frequently, whether Matt Haig’s books would mean the same things to me if I read them in a different time in my life. If I weren’t in the midst of all this turmoil, would I be so introspective? Would the big questions of life have occurred to me if I were still running from one activity, job, and get-together to the next? I’m not sure. But this week, when the pandemic is still raging around the world, and we all watched the US Capital as it was infiltrated by its own citizens at the behest of the President, this week is a good time to be contemplative. And Nora and I did that together.
By zooming out and looking at Nora’s multiverse I found myself narrowing in on my today and how the choices I made could be the best for the person I am right now. I don’t want to visit my Midnight Library, I want to write my ultimate story today.
Tell me, please! Is there an author you have read recently that has wowed you? Please share!