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The Midnight Library
Cover of The Midnight Library
The Midnight Library
A Novel
by Matt Haig
WASHINGTON POST “FEEL-GOOD BOOK GUARANTEED TO LIFT YOUR SPIRITS”
New York Times bestseller | Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction | A Good Morning America Book Club Pick!


"Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?" 
A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
WASHINGTON POST “FEEL-GOOD BOOK GUARANTEED TO LIFT YOUR SPIRITS”
New York Times bestseller | Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction | A Good Morning America Book Club Pick!


"Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?" 
A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    A Conversation About Rain

     

    Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of the small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford. She sat at a low table staring at a chess board.

     

    'Nora dear, it's natural to worry about your future,' said the librarian, Mrs Elm, her eyes twinkling.

     

    Mrs Elm made her first move. A knight hopping over the neat row of white pawns. 'Of course, you're going to be worried about the exams. But you could be anything you want to be, Nora. Think of all that possibility. It's exciting.'

     

    'Yes. I suppose it is.'

     

    'A whole life in front of you.'

     

    'A whole life.'

     

    'You could do anything, live anywhere. Somewhere a bit less cold and wet.'

     

    Nora pushed a pawn forward two spaces.

     

    It was hard not to compare Mrs Elm to her mother, who treated Nora like a mistake in need of correction. For instance, when she was a baby her mother had been so worried Nora's left ear stuck out more than her right that she'd used sticky tape to address the situation, then disguised it beneath a woollen bonnet.

     

    'I hate the cold and wet,' added Mrs Elm, for emphasis.

     

    Mrs Elm had short grey hair and a kind and mildly crinkled oval face sitting pale above her turtle-green polo neck. She was quite old. But she was also the person most on Nora's wavelength in the entire school, and even on days when it wasn't raining she would spend her afternoon break in the small library.

     

    'Coldness and wetness don't always go together,' Nora told her. 'Antarctica is the driest continent on Earth. Technically, it's a desert.'

     

    'Well, that sounds up your street.'

     

    'I don't think it's far enough away.'

     

    'Well, maybe you should be an astronaut. Travel the galaxy.'

     

    Nora smiled. 'The rain is even worse on other planets.'

     

    'Worse than Bedfordshire?'

     

    'On Venus it is pure acid.'

     

    Mrs Elm pulled a paper tissue from her sleeve and delicately blew her nose. 'See? With a brain like yours you can do anything.'

     

    A blond boy Nora recognised from a couple of years below her ran past outside the rain-speckled window. Either chasing someone or being chased. Since her brother had left, she'd felt a bit unguarded out there. The library was a little shelter of civilisation.

     

    'Dad thinks I've thrown everything away. Now I've stopped swimming.'

     

    'Well, far be it from me to say, but there is more to this world than swimming really fast. There are many different possible lives ahead of you. Like I said last week, you could be a glaciologist. I've been researching and the-'

     

    And it was then that the phone rang.

     

    'One minute,' said Mrs Elm, softly. 'I'd better get that.'

     

    A moment later, Nora watched Mrs Elm on the phone. 'Yes. She's here now.' The librarian's face fell in shock. She turned away from Nora, but her words were audible across the hushed room: 'Oh no. No. Oh my God. Of course . . .'

     

     

    Nineteen Years Later

    The Man at the Door

     

    Twenty-seven hours before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat on her dilapidated sofa scrolling through other people's happy lives, waiting for something to happen. And then, out of nowhere, something actually did.

     

    Someone, for whatever peculiar reason, rang her doorbell.

     

    She wondered for a moment if she...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 27, 2020
    Haig (How to Stop Time) draws on quantum wave theory in this charming if sometimes laborious account of the many possible lives of a depressed woman. Nora, in her mid-30s and living in the small English town of Bedford, suffers from “situational depression”—though, as she wryly observes, “It’s just that I keep on having new... situations.” After she gets fired from her job and her cat dies, she attempts suicide, only to wake up in a book-lined liminal zone, where she is guided by a librarian: “Between life and death there is a library... Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived.” There, Nora discovers what would have happened had she not abandoned her promising swimming career, called off her engagement, or left the rock band she started with her brother. Each time an alternate life disappoints or doesn’t feel quite right, Nora exits, reappearing in the library to continue browsing for the perfect story. While the formula grows repetitive, the set changes provide novelty, as Haig whisks Nora from Australian beaches to a South American rock concert tour to an Arctic encounter with a polar bear. Haig’s agreeable narrative voice and imagination will reward readers who take this book off the shelf.

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2020
    An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives. How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That's the question at the heart of Haig's latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence--as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won't need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn't difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book's playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable. A whimsical fantasy about learning what's important in life.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from August 1, 2020
    Nora Seed believes her life is made up of wrong choices. She didn't become an Olympic swimmer; she quit her brother's band; she left her fianc� two days before the wedding. Living with crippling disappointment and situational depression, Nora decides that the only right choice for her is to end her existence. But between life and death there is a midnight library, a library that contains multiple volumes of the lives she could have had if she had made different choices. With the help of the friendly librarian Mrs. Elm, Nora tries on these lives in hopes of finding one where she will truly be happy. In the process, Nora finds that life is made of choices of both little and big consequence, and sometimes the choice to believe in oneself is both the biggest and smallest decision a person can make. Haig's latest (after the nonfiction collection Notes on a Nervous Planet, 2019) is a stunning contemporary story that explores the choices that make up a life, and the regrets that can stifle it. A compelling novel that will resonate with readers.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2020

    If you could live your life over again, would you make the same choices? Nora Seed is depressed: Her best friend has ghosted her from the other side of the world; she is estranged from her brother; she just got fired; and her cat died. Suicide seems to be the answer, but instead of dying, she awakens in a library of infinite books, all about the lives she could have lived. There she meets her school librarian, who guides her first to her "Book of Regrets," where she sees every choice she made, while the rest of the books take her on journeys to visit her potential lives. What if, instead of quitting the band, she became a rock star? Or instead of leaving school, she became a world-renowned glaciologist? Nora gets to live these alternative lives, the goal being to find the life that will make her happy. But happiness, even in this fantasy, still proves elusive; perhaps that wasn't the goal after all. VERDICT Haig (How To Stop Time) takes readers on a journey of quantum physics that will have them feeling that they actually understand the theory. Most reminiscent of Ken Grimwood's Replay.--Stacy Alesi, Eugene M. & Christine E. Lynn Lib., Lynn Univ., Boca Raton, FL

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Novel
Matt Haig
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