Nora is going through a rough patch in life. She is fired from her job, she has a bad relationship with her brother, her cat died, her depression is worsening, and no one appears to even need her. She also has a long list of regrets that she has never come to terms with. So, one night she decides to end it all and attempts suicide. But she doesn’t die. Instead, she wakes up in the Midnight Library, surrounded by books that contain the lives she could have lived if she made different choices. Nora can choose any of the books on the shelves, and once she begins to read a book, she is transported into another life. In some lives she is famous and in others she is worse off than in her root life. Nora can ultimately choose to continue in existing in any life she chooses as long as it is the one perfectly suited to her, but is any life truly perfect?
I loved this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it to readers currently struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts. While it does have a hopeful ending, it can bring up some dark thoughts along the way. For instance, I consider my life and mental health to be quite stable right now, but I have struggled with depression, suicidal ideation, and anxiety a lot in my life. Reading this book reminded me of many dark times. Although this is my first time reading from this author (and I don’t know much about him), I think it is clear that he has a very good understanding of how depression feels, which makes Nora a very realistic and relatable character, but it could disturb some readers.
Having read some book with a similar theme, I guessed where the ending was going, but it is the journey that matters. I enjoyed seeing Nora’s possible lives, and it of course made me wonder how my own life would be if I made slightly different decisions. The book makes the reader reflect a lot, so my enjoyment did not only come from the text itself but also the way the book made me think about my life. Nora learns some hard lessons through her journey through her lives, and she sees the good in bad in herself, her choices, and in other people. It is a really beautiful and heartfelt story that was difficult to put down. I mourned and celebrated alongside Nora’s losses, accomplishments, and discoveries.
Speaking of Nora, she is a great character. She is well developed and shows growth over the course of the novel, but as the reader I found it easy to sort of insert myself into the story as I reflected on the choices I would have made in my own life. It was a delicate balance, but I thought it was done well. It was also fun to see Nora’s friends and family through her different lives. These different perspectives made it easier for Nora (and the reader) to see different aspects of their personalities as well as their flaws and redeeming qualities. So, even if her brother was cruel in one life, she saw reasons for his actions in another life, and piecing the iterations of him together gave Nora and the reader a clearer picture of who he really was, which I thought was a brilliant way of creating character development.
I gave The Midnight Library five out five stars because I can’t fault it. I related to it so much and it gave me so much to think about. It made me laugh, cry, and think. I can’t ask for much more than that from a book. So, as long as you can handle the conversations on mental health, I would recommend it to just about anyone. It made me appreciate the life I am living a bit more than I did before.