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Between Life and Death: Book Review of The Midnight Library

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Warning: There aren’t any major spoilers in this review, but this book does have depictions of mental illness and suicide.

Growing up, I was the one who was always reading: at school, at home, honestly everywhere. I loved books, I loved the escape that came with reading, and I loved being able to go through and experience different lives and different worlds. A famous quote by George R.R. Martin says, “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies; the man who never reads lives only one.” 

I wish I still had that dedication and the brain capabilities to read more. I don’t have the time that I used to, and I’ve had a few too many concussions. However, despite this, there are certain books that immediately draw me in. These are the types of books I finish within days.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was one of those stories.

A little bit of background: the Midnight Library is the place where Nora Seed finds herself after a suicide attempt. Inside it is an infinite number of books, each of which is a different life Nora could have lived if she had made different decisions. All but one book – the “book of regrets” – have the ability to assist Nora in choosing a new life where, if she is happy, she may choose to remain until she dies of natural causes. 

To assist her is Mrs. Elm, The Midnight Library’s librarian, who was Nora’s childhood librarian. Mrs. Elm supported Nora through some difficult times in her early school years, such as the passing of her father, making her the perfect guide for Nora’s journey.

The Midnight Library is a place between life and death where Nora has the ability to go through and experience the different lives she could have lived in search of a new life. But there’s a catch: as soon as she realizes that a life isn’t the right one for her, she is pulled back to the library to make a new selection. And in order for The Midnight Library to continue to exist, she has to want it to exist. She has to hold onto it.

This is one of those books that will stick with you. I finished it weeks ago, and it is still on my mind, which is the true sign of a great book. This story is well-written, and even though it has a lot of different plot points and turns, it isn’t difficult to follow along. The story was really emotional. The reader is able to fully engulf themselves into Nora’s story and experience life in the same way she does throughout the book.

In each new life, you experience all of the emotions, as if it were you in Nora’s place. You find yourself rooting for one of the lives or wishing to get out of it as soon as possible. But nevertheless, each life is key to the story and helps push Nora to discover more about herself and overcome regrets we can all relate to.

Being a strong mental health advocate, I see this as a book that people need to read. It is so difficult to truly capture the experiences and aftermath of not seeking help and not looking after our friends and loved ones, but this book captures it well.

This book came out a little over two years ago, and is definitely worth picking up. Given the content of the story, it would be better enjoyed by late teens and adults, but the book is easy to get through in general. If you choose to read it, be warned of two things: 1. you’re not going to be able to put it down, and 2. you are going to experience a whole whirlwind of emotions.

Kaytlyn is a Senior at MSU majoring in Marketing and minoring in Creative Writing. She has been a published journalist and writer for over 5 years. Kaytlyn is currently the Chapter President and Campus Correspondent for HCMSU as well as being involved in the Campus Trendsetters program and Internship Credit program. You can reach her by email through khmg2001@gmail.com or gannonk3@msu.edu.