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The Midnight Library: 11/28/20

The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is a variation on themes explored in The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger (2010). The difference is that Haig's is ultimately a hopeful take on depression and Niffenegger's isn't. Trigger warning: both books contain themes of depression and suicide.

Nora Seed had lots of dreams when she was younger. She could have been an Olympic swimmer, a glaciologist, living in Australia, or the lead in a rock band. Instead she's living in a musty flat, working in a failing musical instrument store. And then she's out of a job and her cat has died. Feeling she has nothing to live for, she attempts to kill herself.

Rather than finding oblivion or an afterlife, she finds herself in a very strange library, run by her old primary school librarian. It's from here she's able to revisit all the decisions she made to see if she could find a better life for herself.

While all of Nora's alternative lives are interesting and the last one is a bittersweet one, the solution to her problem is apparent from the beginning. The only question then is will she or won't she succeed? There isn't the larger scale risks that one sees in a true time travel book like All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (2017).

As a metaphorical journey, The Midnight Library sits on the road narrative spectrum as an outlier. As I've mentioned before, I am primarily focusing on North American literature for the road narrative project. Sometimes though, a book from another country will qualify.

As all of the journeys are Nora's alone to take, she is an orphan traveler (FF). Her goal is to find a life worth living and thus her explorations are through uhoria (CC) as she tries out different timelines. Her route is the maze (CC) — one she calls out early in her time at the night library. It's a maze because there is the danger that she will ultimately die before she discovers her perfect life. To summarize, Nora's journey through The Midnight Library is that of an orphan going through uhoria via the maze (FFCCCC).

Five stars

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