Book Review: The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library is one of the most fascinating fiction books I have read in a long while — and, yes, I know I am very late to this party. This book was published back in 2020. I bought it for another person to read, who raved about it, and then it came up with another person as a must read. The premise completely enticed me even without these recommendations, but it still took me a long while to come to it — to come to death, the potential in-between state between life and death, to choices, to where the path not taken takes someone, and more.

That’s right — the fictional idea that we can “die” and not yet “die.” That there is an in between state that begs the question between life and death. Nora, the protagonist, wants to die. The choices she has made have lead her to one big book of regrets and so she dies — not explicitly stated, but she completed suicide.

Yet, she finds herself in a library and it’s midnight — rather than the pearly gates of the afterlife. From here she moves in an ever shifting space of what has been and the opportunity to walk down all the paths she didn’t take and see how they played out. The idea is she is not dead — yet — there may be a story she finds that she wants to live out. This is a story of redemption even when one feels there is nothing about self to be redeemed.

One of the most interesting books she opens is the first one — a large, hefty volume of her regrets. Ah! Regrets! And this one is really accurate for Nora — thus why it is so thick. Regrets large and small about the life she has been living — everything from not exercising on any given day to not marrying the one and basically everything in between.

There is oh so much more, but it had me stop to think about my own book of regrets. If I found myself in my own Midnight Library, would the first book I open be one of regrets? Would the volume be thin, thick, silly, serious — how would I receive looking over the life I have been living essentially? Would the thickest, most urgent volume be the one filled with my regrets?

For Nora, the volume becomes overwhelming. Her volume was thick, overflowing with every move she made and many she did not make. Before she can begin to even open the books that will take her into her stories that she spent so much time regretting she has to face the regret first. Oh! What courage!

As the New Year gets ushered in, how are you perceiving life? Are you looking back at the old with regret? Is there space for what was possible and that you made possible for yourself.?Is there space to hold on to decisions you made that were intuitive and may have left you in pain, but was necessary for yourself in some way? Or when you made those decisions did the walls close in and you filled with regret — which then lead to paralysis to not be able to move forward?

Regrets. They can creep in and define a life. The Midnight Library concept is so special because it allows us to name the regret — well, it’s been written down for you in your great volume of regrets — and then to open up a whole different volume to see if you would have played that decision differently, what would come from it. We often think in terms of all the good we didn’t allow ourselves to have, but, quite possibly, it may have saved us a lot of heartache and wrongness that we just new even as we could not point a finger and name why specifically.

We are all walking the life we are crafting. From the everyday mundane tasks to choosing a partner and a profession — life is dynamic. The Midnight Library acts dynamically as well. Nothing is ever cast in ink either — you can jump out of one story and into another. We have agency, autonomy, and choice to open or shut our decisions, chapters of life, and more.

At the beginning of all things, let there be choice and suspend the regret. Think about it all written down in the great volumes of your Midnight Library — what are you missing in the other volumes by focusing on regret?