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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Libraries Should Be Open 24/7: A Review of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.


I hope you’re all ready for a new review. I’ve been slowly making my way through my TBR pile–which is very, very slow work by the way–and I picked up a little read. A little read I thought was going to be heartwarming but is actually heart wrenching. Drop your guesses as to what I’m reviewing right now!


The answer is totally not in the title lol.

Guesses in? Cool. Please give a warm round of applause to The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

Book cover of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

I’m very excited to get into this one and I hope you are too. As always, a spoiler alert is in order. This is your one and only warning. If you have read any other review on this site then you know I love to spoil the entirety of the books I read. You’ve been warned. I also must issue a major content and trigger warning. The Midnight Library deals with suicide and depression. There is no way around these topics so if they are triggering to you in any way I highly suggest skipping this book and this review. The Midnight Library is a beautiful story, but it is dark at times. Please, continue on at your own discretion. Also there is animal death in this book. It’s always from natural causes but you will cry your eyes out. With that, let’s get to the synopsis.

Bears waving.
If you're jumping ship, that's fine, I'll see you next week.

When readers meet Nora Seed, she’s in a deep depression. She’s a passenger in her own life as it’s drives along. When readers meet her, she is at her lowest. She’s just lost her job, has no friends or family nearby to talk to, she called off her wedding not too long ago, and her cat died. She feels she has nothing to live for and decides to take her own life.


In the space between life and death there is a library. A library full of books of life. Nora’s life. These are all the lives she could have led. Some of these lives are very similar to the one she was leading before she arrived at the Midnight Library. Others are beyond belief. But, in this space between death and the land of the living, Nora has the chance slip into these lives. She has a chance to experience new choices and undo her regrets. And should she find a life she thinks is worth living, she is free to stay there. 


At first, this sounds phenomenal to Nora. Find a life where she’s happy and thriving? Ok, cool! Awesome! Sounds easy, just hop into a life where she’s a famous singer, or a life where she’s doing meaningful work, or married to the love of her life, or she’s doing anything other than what she was doing in the life she came from. Except it’s not that easy as Nora learns that each and every life has its hardships. There’s no life that’s easy or where she’s full happy.


One thing else she learns is the longer she spends in the midnight library, the closer the library comes to collapse. Despite time being paused while visiting the library, time seems to be running out. And without much time, she’s forced to figure out the answer to the question: what is the best way to live?

Pug titling head.
We're asking the real questions here.

The Midnight Library destroyed me. It throws readers in at the deep end when it comes to Nora’s story. As someone who too has struggled with their mental health and depression, Nora is a main character I empathized a lot with and I feel many other readers will too. Matt Haig has created a hyper-realistic character in a downward spiral that is sadly not uncommon.


Seriously, the beginning of this book is not easy. It is, as I said, a hyper-realistic picture of snowballing depression leading to a character taking her own life. Thank you, Matt Haig, for creating such a realistic picture that absolutely wrecked me. The beginning of this book is really going to stick with me for quite some time. I do not suggest starting this book if you are in a bad headspace.


Let’s talk about the elephant in the room now. And I think this is going to be the focus of today’s review. Is this a fictional novel moonlighting as a self-help manual? Yes and no. If you’ve read other reviews of The Midnight Library, and specifically on Goodreads, there are quite a few reviews that call this a self-help-esque book. I’m not going to argue with that. There are certainly moments where it does come across like a self-help book, and you could easily put some quotes on a nice picture and make an inspirational poster. But at the same time, this book is about a woman coming to the realization that she doesn’t want to die and her life isn’t as bad as she originally thought. That realization isn’t going to occur just by her jumping into other lives and feeling like an outsider in said world. Nora needs to talk through her feelings, thoughts on taking her own life, and the motivations behind it. The pseudo-therapist character is naturally going to ask open ended questions and say some cryptic things that may or may not sound like inspirational poster quotes. So yeah, The Midnight Library does at times sound like a self-help book for dealing with depression, but overcoming depression is kinda the point of the book. It would be weird if none of that was included.


Overall, this book is beautiful. Stunning. Dazzling. Emotional. Heart wrenching. Deep. Stunning. Never been done before. I feel The Midnight Library is going to stand the test of time. This novel is going to be read 50 years from now in English classes. I said what I said and I’ll always stand by it. I don't think I could recommend this book enough.


With that I must bid you all adieu. I know today was a short one, but I do hope you all think it was a good one. Thank you for joining me today. I shall see you all again next week with another new review.


Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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