The Midnight Library by Matthew Haig

At the age of 35, Nora feels she is a complete failure. In her younger days she showed great promise, but she has allowed fear, anxiety, poor decisions, and the unrealistic expectations of others to squash her true potential. As a result, she has achieved little of real significance in terms of a career or personal relationships.

When her cat dies and she loses her job, it is the last straw. Overcome by regrets and depression she decides to end it all. Instead, she finds herself in limbo, suspended between life and death in a mysterious library. Each volume, the librarian tells her, represents a version of her life where she can make choices which will lead to different outcomes.

Faced with the chance of finding her ideal life she enters one parallel universe after the other, experiencing alternate lives. In one she is a famous rock singer, in another a glaciologist on an Arctic research ship and, in yet another, an Olympic swimmer. If she finds a life she wants, the librarian tells her, she can stay. But she discovers that each life she dips into has its disappointing and negative aspects.

After experiencing many options, Nora finally arrives at a deeper appreciation of her real life with its ordinary people and everyday events and possibilities. She sees that worldly success does not necessarily lead to happiness and contentment, that it is self-destructive to live life haunted by regrets and what-ifs, and that small acts of kindness can make a difference. Many other quotable nuggets of home-spun wisdom and common sense are peppered throughout the novel.

There are also fleeting references to quantum physics, quotes from various philosophers, especially Thoreau, and discussions of psychological concepts. These not only give the novel more depth and texture but may encourage the reader (as I was!) to consult Wikipedia.

The premise that parallel universes exist, that every decision can have far-reaching consequences and that change, and reversal are possible, will be familiar from other novels and movies, e.g. A Christmas Carol by Dickens and the film Sliding Doors.

The themes and content of this very readable best-selling book lend themselves well to discussions on life, relationships, and vocation from a Christian perspective. This is a thought-provoking and uplifting novel, well suited for book clubs.

This book is available to purchase from Book Depository, Booktopia, Dymocks and Amazon.

About the Author

Jenni van Wageningen

Jenni is a retired school librarian with an interest in history – in recent times she has run a book club. She is a member at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide.

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