Most of my reading of late has been nonfiction. I seem to be sitting either with long biographies or serious histories. The biographies center on authors, the histories on immigration. But occasionally I find a novel that is worth the time it takes to read it. (For me, a lot of them aren’t) The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, written this past August, passed my test.
The premise of the novel is intriguing, and it is no spoiler to reveal it here. From the start of the book we learn that Nora is about to die. (If you really need to be completely surprised, stop reading now.) When she does, she finds herself in the midnight library, a place between life and death. There she finds the very helpful librarian who allows her to relive any part of her life about which she has regrets. Suddenly she finds herself back at those junctures.
While I often wonder “what if” about various times in my life, as do most I imagine, I have never encountered such a witty treatment of the questions. The book comes closest to the classic movie It’s A Wonderful Life, but departs from it in an intriguing way. Here Nora ends up time traveling and remaining both her old self(her root self) and the new one. My mind enjoyed the conundrums that arose thinking about that dual consciousness.
Great literature? No. But neither is it completely formulaic. If you need to depart from the crazy pandemic and political chaos surrounding us, you could do worse than to spend it in the midnight library.