The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig

“Adjusting her hands into position for E-flat major, she was momentarily distracted by a tattoo on her weirdly hairless forearm, written in beautifully angled calligraphic letters. It was a quote from Henry David Thoreau. ‘All good things are wild and free.'”

The premise of this book is pretty simple: We all have regrets in life. If you could make different choices, which version of your life would you choose?

The protagonist, Nora, has plenty of regrets. When she decides to end her life, she winds up in the Midnight Library, a place between life and death where she is free to explore any of the infinite alternate lives she could have lived had she made different choices.

Through the course of the book, Nora samples many lives. One of the principle lessons seems to be that the perfect life is a myth. We imagine that doing a few things differently could fix everything, but of course life is not so simple. Our imagined futures might be different, but they would still be messy.

Another lesson is that our darkest days are only temporary. Pain and trauma subside. Regrets can be nullified, or even transmuted into something beautiful, if you put in the effort.

This book was an interesting thought experiment, and like other books I’ve read recently, it drove home the point that hard times are unavoidable. The only way beyond them is through them.