What scares us about death? The unknown? The fear about the end of life as we know it? Extreme distress about moving out of our comfort zone built over our lifetime? The possibility of ending up in hell?
What if someone told you there’s a world in between this one and the afterlife. And that world in the middle will take the form of whatever place was closest to your heart in life.
In Matt Haig’s book, The Midnight Library, Nora, a 35-year-old woman, decides to commit suicide. In the twilight zone between life and death, She finds her favorite librarian waiting for her in a library. And what better place to learn about the meaning of life than a beloved library, surrounded by your forever best friends-books.
The librarian tells her that all the books in the library are her different lives that would have resulted from her different choices. And she can live it all before she decides to either move on or go back to life on earth.
Nora re-visits the various forks in her life and travels down several ‘roads not taken.’ In the end, she realizes that irrespective of our choices, life takes its course.
The book starts on a depressing note but immediately crosses to the spooky side and gently lulls us into a philosophical realm. Every single scene is engaging, and the book is most certainly a page-turner.
The philosophy the book embodies:
It is hubris to imagine that anything in life is within our control. If it were, there would be no accidents or natural disasters or, in short, death. All that is in our control is making the best of the scenarios that happen to us. We can hope, aspire, and persevere. But we should always denounce expectations of the result. Our duty is only to live and love as best as we can. The rest is up to the universe. We can only humbly bow down to its decisions.
As the librarian, Mrs.Elm, in this book says, “Never underestimate the big importance of small things.”
What was fantastic about this book?
This book forces you to face a terrifying truth. Despite making different choices, what makes you think you wouldn’t have arrived at the exact same place you are in right now? Isn’t it audacious to imagine it was in your power to change anything? Even those who don’t believe in fate or destiny can’t deny that some scenarios in life are beyond our control. How we react to them is the only thing we can control. A positive outlook, hope, love, and self-reflection are things we owe to ourselves. Everything else is beyond our control.
This book could have been a self-help non-fiction book. But it wasn’t, and that’s the beauty of it. One of the best drops of wisdom found in this book was:
“A person was like a city. You couldn’t let a few less desirable parts put you off the whole. There may be bits you don’t like, a few dodgy side streets and suburbs, but the good stuff makes it worthwhile.”
This book teaches us to give everyone a chance, for none of us are perfect. All of us have a few dodgy side streets and also venerable characteristics.
What about this book could have been better?
- Maybe, if it had been just a few pages shorter, the book would have been crisper and to the point.
- No other character other than the Protagonist was fleshed out. Diverse characters could have added depth to the story.
- For those who are vehemently opposed to the ideas of fate or destiny, this might not be their cup of tea.
The Midnight Library was a brilliant story and a fast-read since the pace never slowed. In a short duration, this book manages to leave a profound mark on the reader. So, the book is definitely worth the time and energy. I’m glad I read this book, for it has added a necessary flavor to my reading journey.
Matt Haig ends this book with these eloquent words:
“It’s easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, said yes to the coffee, or done more bloody yoga. It’s easy to regret, and keep regretting, until our time runs out. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither. We can’t tell if any of those other versions would’ve been better or worse.
Of course, we can’t visit every place or meet every person or do every job. Yet, most of what we’d feel in any life is still available. We don’t have to play every game to know what winning feels like. We don’t have to hear every piece of music in the world to understand music. Love, laughter, fear, and pain are universal currencies. We just have to close our eyes and savour the taste of the drink in front of us and listen to the song as it plays.
We only need to be one person. We only need to feel one existence. We don’t have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite. So let’s be kind to the people in our own existence.”
So, in essence, we are a sum product of all our choices, and regretting a past choice is like regretting your present self. To love yourself, you need to come to terms with all the choices you have made to be here. And only when we love ourselves, can we spread love.