Sometimes, books get a lot of buzz, show up on numerous “best of lists,” get recommended by everyone you know and don’t live up to the hype. At the end of last year it seemed I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Matt Haig’s newest book, and as much as I wanted to read it, I was worried the buildup would be too much and I would be left disappointed. I am happy to say that this book was everything I had hoped it would be.
From Goodreads: 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? 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.
This book is hard to describe but it is a delightful read. Part fiction, part Sci-Fi, with a dash of fantasy, Haig takes what could be a dark subject matter (suicide and depression) and manages to write a joyful, sweet story about the decisions we make in life that shape our destiny. The story’s concept is great; who wouldn’t want the opportunity to see what their life would be like if they made just one small change? The mind reels with the possibilities this opens up and indeed we see how many different lives Nora could have lived had she made different decisions. I loved seeing all these potential lives Nora could have lived and the ways the lives of the people she loved were effected by her decisions. The strength of this book relies on the reader caring about what happens to the characters and in that respect, Nora is a great protagonist. She is relatable and you understand why she has come to the decision she has made while also rooting for her and hoping she doesn’t go through with it. She is sympathetic without being pathetic which is a tough thing to convey on the page.
While there was nothing surprising about the plot or the ending and in fact you can guess how Nora’s story is going to end from the first page, this didn’t stop me from enjoying every word of this book. The themes of loss and grief are handled remarkably well and Haig manages to not come across as preachy. While the subject matter seems dark, this was a sweet and hopeful book that left me feeling grateful to be alive, even in a world that can be dark and sad. I could see this book leading to some great discussions about the choices we make in life and even where we go when we die. I highly recommend this book.
Favorite Quote: “Of course, we can’t visit every place or meet every person or do every job, yet most of what we’d feel in any life is still available. We don’t have to play every game to know what winning feels like. We don’t have to hear every piece of music in the world to understand music. We don’t have to have tried every variety of grape from every vineyard to know the pleasure of wine. Love and laughter and fear and pain are universal currencies. We just have to close our eyes and savour the taste of the drink in front of us and listen to the song as it plays. We are as completely and utterly alive as we are in any other life and have access to the same emotional spectrum.”
Author: Matt Haig
Published: September 29, 2020
Rating: 5 Stars