Matt Haig’s ‘The Midnight Library’ offers comfort, creates safe space for conversations

Sofia Treviño

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, from Sept. 6-12, The Daily Texan reviewed “The Midnight Library,” a tale of embracing life, by English author Matt Haig. Haig, who has struggled with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts himself, aims to inspire his readers and create a safe space through his work.

Through the 2020 novel, Haig delivers a powerful message on mental health struggles from a lighthearted and fictional lens. Following 35-year-old Nora Seed through a magical in-between state after a suicide attempt, Haig delves into the existential question of the meaning of life.

Drowning in regrets, just fired and mourning the loss of her beloved cat, Nora finds herself in the Midnight Library, a library existing between life and death. Guided by her elementary school librarian, Mrs. Elm, Nora transports into different books, each showing a different version of her life, where, dependent on a choice she did or did not make, experiences a completely different reality.

One version finds Nora as an Olympic swimmer, a route made possible if she did not quit the sport at a young age. Waking up in a fancy hotel room as a two-time Olympian with a perfect athlete’s build, Nora begins to wish to stay in this version of herself. However, by the end of the day, Nora learns that in this version of her life, she struggled with self-harm and the loss of her mother.

Each time Nora chooses to pull out of a storyline, Mrs. Elm shows her the library’s largest book 一 the Book of Regrets. After Nora sees the shortcomings of each life, regrets slowly vanish from its pages.

Realizing that each version comes with new flaws, Nora begins to find hope in her original life again. Mrs. Elm often pushes Nora in the positive direction with words like, “You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it.”

With Haig’s beautiful writing and heavy use of metaphors, such as comparing life to a chess game and people to cities, Nora’s journey reads like a warm hug that invites introspection.

Despite the enjoyable writing, the pacing as Nora explores each alternate version of herself feels tedious at times and the message of the story gets lost behind an abundance of inspirational quotes.

Still, even through the predictable and cheesy moments, “The Midnight Library” serves as a comforting reminder of living in the present moment and finding the joy in each day.

4.5 Olympic medals out of 5