“That was how she had felt most of her life.
Caught in the middle. Struggling, flailing, just trying to survive while not knowing which way to go. Which path to commit to without regret.”
I remember back in high school when we were taught
(forced to read) The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. The line that resonated with me to this day was “Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” The poet, it always seemed to me, was consoling himself that he would return one day and then, take the other road despite knowing deep down that day might never come.
Regret. “Maybe just maybe if I had done something differently I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now.” A word that holds the weight of the worlds. Everyone has them, everyone thinks about them and everyone deals with them.
But it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy.
It is no secret that Matt Haig, the author of this book, has battled long and hard with various mental issues and maybe that’s why he is so apt at creating characters that are so easy to resonate with.
Nora Seed has found herself in the most shittiest version of her life. Everything that could have gone horribly wrong, has. First, her mom passed away. Then, she lost her job at the saddest music shop possible. Then, the cherry on top of her already sad and mopey day, her cat died. And perhaps what’s worse, her sorta crush, brought her dead cat to her (I mean, talk about a turn off). And then, Nora found herself doing a run down of things that went wrong in her life- She quit swimming, she quit the band that her brother and her were part of , she left her fiance two days before their wedding, she didnt go to Australia with her best friend and they barely talk anymore, she got a degree in philosophy instead of going to study glaciers in the Arctic circle and so on and so forth. But you get the gist of it.
“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga.”
And so, Nora finds herself in The Midnight Library. A place that is filled with books, each representing a life she could have made had she made a few different choices. And so, begins her second life, and her third and her forth and on and on and on. She tried one she got married to the guy of her dreams, went to Australia with her best friend, said yes to a coffee date, became a rockstar etc etc. Her possibilities, as it seemed, were just as big and wide as her regrets.
“Never underestimate the big importance of small things.”
Now, I have thought and thought how best to describe the feeling of this book. Imagine watching a Hallmark movie, or a typical romcom from the 90s, lets say The Runaway Bride (picked because its also a disguised self help movie) , now everyone, including the writers know, that the ending (Read as: “the lesson learned”) is quite obvious. Yet, we continue to watch the movie. And its the same with the book. We know where this is headed and yet, we continue reading.
“You’re overthinking it.’
‘I have anxiety. I have no other type of thinking available.”
My one problem with the book is that Nora is a wet blanket. She is the dementor of her life. She manages to overthink and devoid any and all situations out of an ounce of happiness. And yes, I know, reading about a character who was down in the depths that taking her life was the only solution left to her, is quite emotionally challenging. And I, personally, in no way believe that you can cure a mental illness by changing a few perspectives on your life and tapping your heels three times and saying that you want to go home, The Midnight Library, does manage to remain warm and uplifting despite its dark and dreary start.