Welcome to my Writer’s Book Club! This month I’ve selected the New York Times Bestseller The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I’d read and liked Haig’s International Bestseller How to Stop Time, so I decided to buy his latest book for my mom.
When my mother and my sister read The Midnight Library, they didn’t like it, so I decided not to read it. Instead, I passed it on to my daughter Caitlin. Caitlin told me she loved it and insisted I read it. I’m so glad she did because I loved it, too. It’s a book I’m sure I’ll read again and again.
But I completely understand why my mother, my sister, and even my sister’s book club didn’t like The Midnight Library. The protagonist, Nora Seed, isn’t a likeable character. In fact, she can be downright annoying.
Nora has amazing opportunities (to compete as an Olympic swimmer, perform as the lead singer in a successful band, live and explore Australia with her best friend, marry a man she loves, and more), but she throws them all away. When she loses her dead-end job and her cat, she attempts to kill herself (this isn’t really a spoiler as it happens in the beginning of the novel).
So, this story starts as a downer with an unsympathetic character. A character I generally wouldn’t want to read about. But I wondered why Nora turned down all those amazing opportunities, and that was enough to make me read on.
When Nora wakes from her attempted suicide, she finds herself inside the MIdnight Library. On the shelves are an infinite number of books containing Nora’s other lives; lives she could have had if she only had made a different choice. Nora selects a variety of different books and experiences alternative lives. Which life will she choose?
What I liked about The Midnight Library
The premise — it’s terrific. Sure, the story is a modern take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Frank Capra‘s movie It’s a Wonderful Life (based on the short story The Greatest Gift, which Philip Van Doren Stern self-published in 1943), but the idea of reliving our lives based upon the knowledge we’ve gained from having lived is a powerful one. What regrets do we have? What, if anything, would we change?
Issues I had with The MIdnight Library
The writing in The Midnight Library isn’t particularly poetic, the dialogue is stilted, and I found some grammatical errors and typos. Combine that with an unsympathetic protagonist and I should have never finished this book. But Nora grew on me as I came to understand why she made the decisions she did and novel’s sweet simplicity moved me.
I wanted more (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing)
The Midnight Library resonated with me so much I plan on adding it to my list of books I’ll re-read every year. I’m also thinking of buying and listening to the audio book narrated by Carrie Mulligan. And the book has been optioned to be made into a full-length movie which I’m looking forward to seeing.
How this book has affected my writing
Currently I’m working on a story that spans four books (perhaps even five–see below). I love writing about Paul, Jaelyn, and Gaige and the epic journeys they’re taking. But for a future book I might consider crafting a terrific, inspirational premise (or tweaking one already in use) and writing the story in the simple style of The Midnight Library.
I give The Midnight Library 👍🏻 👍🏻 👍🏻 👍🏻 for an heartfelt premise simply told.
What about you? If you read The Midnight Library, did you like it? Be sure to add your comment below.
Next month’s book:
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler who was the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina struggles to survive in a futuristic California where violence is rampant because of climate change and economic instability. What must she do to keep herself and her family alive? This New York Times Bestseller was written in 1993 and takes place in 2024 — yikes!
Thank you to everyone who voted on their favorite book cover after reading my last newsletter “Two Possible Book Covers — Which Do You Like?”! I’ll tally up the answers and let you know the winner in my next newsletter. I’ll also reveal the final cover and tell you all about the design process.
What’s happening in May:
I’m finishing the first draft of The Renegade — the fourth book in The Devil Particle Series! I’ve written 53,103 words (207 pages) and have about 20,000 words to go. A couple of days ago, I had a scary, possibly exciting, thought as I was writing Jaelyn’s story — there could potentially be a fifth book. Crazy, I know. I’ll keep you posted!