The barrage of fake perfection on social media these days can easily toss a big old regret salad and serve it up. The rabbit hole of “friends,” spotless kitchens, fancy sounding job titles and instagram-able artisanal birthday parties for toddlers is bottomless. I think everyone wonders, from time to time, how their life would have turned out if they had taken a different fork in the road. Would that job, relationship, or overseas trip fundamentally change everything?
Nora Sneed is done with living. Thinking, at best, that she doesn’t have anything to offer with her life or, at worst, that her existence actively messes up other people’s lives, she decides to die. What she doesn’t know, is that somewhere between life and death is a library full of books containing all of the possible lives she has lived in parallel universes. There is also a single hefty volume containing all of her regrets and a guide in the form of Nora’s grade school librarian, Mrs. Elm.
Time stands still in the Midnight Library as long as Nora remains alive in her “root” life. She is free to try on her other lives for size until she finds the “perfect” one to live. However, if she dies before she can find it, the clock will tick past midnight and her chance to live a better life will be gone.
Haig has written a really lovely and surprisingly optimistic book about depression, expectations and regret. The choices we make and the regrets we carry, not only for ourselves but for our family, friends and significant others, change us in innumerable ways. It’s a modern and more complex spin on “It’s a Wonderful Life,” if George Bailey had found a librarian instead of an angel and a library instead of an icy river.