Everyone introspects, even the ones who say they don’t. The difference lies in how kind and unkind we are to ourselves for what we see within. Do we take the blame for not doing enough when we could? Can we be courageous and accept the negative impact someone had on our life and behaviour? Are we ready to gauge the severity of the opportunities lost while holding our heads high for what we stood for? Is life worth living the way it is? Would we behave any differently if we could get a chance to live it again? What if the ‘what if’ could be put to rest once and for all? The Midnight Library asks and answers all these questions for you. This isn’t a review, sharing my honest thoughts on this book I truly enjoyed reading.
There are many factors that appeal to me in a book; story, characters, narration, etc. The Midnight Library is amongst the very few ones that managed to strike a chord deep within me by the way it is expressed. Career, relationships, friends, or related to anything else, we keep collecting an endless number of regrets throughout our lives. Some pinch us for a while and fade away while others hurt like a sticky wound that never heals. Their crushing weight can curb the best of our capabilities if not shed off in time. Having a go at it again sounds like poetic justice, but is it so?
Nora Seed is deeply unhappy and perennially lonely. In fact, her only real relationship is between her and her anti-depressant pills. She has lost both her parents and her once close brother doesn’t care for her anymore. She’s absorbed in guilt for calling off their wedding every time her ex-fiancé drunk dials and cries that he misses her. An excellent swimmer, she was once touted as the next-big-thing in Olympics. However, performance pressure and her choices lead her to study philosophy and undeservingly end up working in a music shop. Fate isn’t done handing it down to her though. She loses her job and in a strange turn of events, her cat dies. Unable to take it all, she takes an overdose of pills and falls back in bed, ready to embrace death. Does that happen though?
Nora wakes up in a library with infinite rows of green books and her favourite school librarian Mrs. Elm for company. She’s understandably baffled and cannot make head or tail of this place. Mrs. Elm informs that she’s in an in-between state where she isn’t alive or dead. The books are the infinite possibilities of life in her parallel life. She’s handed a grey Book of Regrets which is heavy from the countless regrets she has collected in her lifetime. While she’s there she can select any book, or life, of her choice and find out what she did or didn’t miss out on. Skeptical, unconvinced yet curious, she takes the plunge and hops from one life to another only to be utterly disappointed in every one of them. Finally, she realises that her own imperfect life is perfect and claws her way out of death’s grip. The Midnight Library is hence dissolved, imparting the biggest life lesson to her; life itself!
What I liked in The Midnight Library and why you should read it
Mental health issues like depression, competitive pressure, relationship issues, loneliness, etc. have been beautifully depicted and delicately handled. One cannot help but wonder if better communication within family or partners would negate the need for professionals at all.
There’s a certain masochistic allure in overthinking and self-pity that can make one immune to positivity. Seeing Nora’s repeated attempts to thwart good things away from herself was an eye-opener for me and would be for others too.
Possibilities of parallel lives have been explained well with the use of quantum physics and string theory. Some of it is technical but one can breeze through it. Even for a layman they seem plausible and make one feel hopeful.
Philosophy may sound boring to a few but it is interesting to read when you don’t have to appear for exams on the subject. I enjoyed knowing about different philosophers, their wonderful quotes, and books, esp Henry David Thoreau.
Every time Nora enters a new life you can’t help investing yourself in it. I was sometimes annoyed with her for not seeing the good side of anything or anyone (secretly wondering what I would’ve done).
Finally, although it’s her story you end up finding its parallels with your own life. I bet you’ll be tempted to call every person you’ve had a row with and settle matters at the earliest. After all, why let loose ends be? Who knows if we have earned a trip to The Midnight Library or not?
The ramifications of the line “Every time one decision is taken over another, the outcomes differ.” are going to stay with me for a long time. Every decision, big or small, changes the course of our life more than we realise. Although, ideally, we should be wise and informed while making them, is it always so? Would we want to know what the parallel universe has in store for us? Food for thought!
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