At least once a year I read a book that I push on everyone like a crazy person. One time it was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Another time it was Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney. I know I told everyone to read Homegoing by Yea Gyasi.
Anyway, published in 2020, the book everyone needs to read now is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Initially, it sounds incredibly depressing, but this novel is a story of HOPE, and it answers the big questions we inevitably ask ourselves: What if I had made other choices in my life? Where would I be now?
The story follows Nora Seed, a young woman who wants to die and finally decides to make that wish come true. You know this is her path because the narrative begins with that warning. It isn’t the most cheerful way to begin a story.
At the moment of her death, or what we think is her death, Nora leaves the site of her lifeless body and enters The Midnight Library, lovingly tended to by her childhood librarian, Mrs. Elm. There, she learns that each book on the shelf represents a possible life – infinite lives – that reflects every time she could’ve made a different choice. What would her life had been like if she’d chosen a different line of work? Married a certain man? Moved to a different country? Every decision, no matter how big or small, leads to a different outcome.
“The books are portals to all the lives you could be living,” says Mrs. Elm.
Incredibly, we follow Nora on her journey to find a happier life, one where she can choose to stay, if she really loves it. The Midnight Library is not heaven; it’s the hub of your own personal multi-verse where you can elect to try a different you.
As with any choice, there are stakes. There are risks. One life has certain people in it, while another life does not. Each chapter shows Nora navigating these choices while the clock is ticking. After all, if she truly wants to die, that’s exactly what will happen, and time is running out.
I loved this book so dearly that I listened to it twice on Audible and then bought a hard copy to read again. (If you’re into audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to it. Carey Mulligan is an excellent narrator.)
Without fail, it was my favorite book in 2020. It will be a favorite for a very long time. Read it, read it, read it.