A record Books on Tap crowd turned out Thursday, December 1 at Champion to discuss The Midnight Library by Matthew Haig. Was everyone just looking for something to do? (This is the most fun you could possibly have on a Thursday night!) Or is there something about this title that brings people out to discuss it?
Haig, an English author who has written for children and adults, hit the NYT, Washington Post, and Boston Globe bestseller lists with this 2020 novel.
Protagonist Nora Seed’s cat dying was the final straw. When she tries to kill herself, she finds herself stuck in a Library run by Mrs. Elm, Nora’s unfailingly kind high school librarian. Mrs. Elm explains that the Midnight Library is a space between life and death; it has books filled with infinite versions of Nora’s life. Each version is a story of “what if…?” she had made different choices along the way. The reader gets to follow Nora through a variety of possible outcomes and regrets until she finds the life she is meant to live.
Some of our readers loved the book and found hope in the story. However, others felt that the mechanism didn’t work because Nora didn’t have the memories and context needed to successfully live in the “new” lives. She didn’t seem to learn from her experiences through each one of her various lives. Did the author overuse the idea of multiple lives? Were there too many scenarios? Even if the book began to feel a bit like beating a dead horse, readers felt the book was a reminder that “you take yourself with you” to each new life. At the end of the day, you can’t escape yourself, and you can only control yourself. Each day we are writing a chapter in our own lives, but the trick is to not allow ourselves to be paralyzed with fear over that reality. Yes, we make decisions, and yes, we are human — so those decisions may not always be the “best” decisions. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, or even regretful, loosen your grip on the “live your best life” mantras, and focus instead on just living your life. Some of it has been given to you, some has been created by you, and some of it is inexplicable. Can we remember that we only live once, without stressing about it?
Other titles mentioned:
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Wizard of Oz (because of the ending)
Upcoming discussion titles:
January 5: The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian
February 2: The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
March 2: SAME PAGE! Book to be determined later.
April 6: Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight For Cumberland Island by Will Harlan
May 4: Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Novel by Shelby Van Pelt