Nora Seed was a lost and depressed woman in her mid-30s feeling like she has no prospects and is unwanted by everyone because of the decisions she had made throughout her life.
She also felt guilty for feeling this way because she was the one who made those decisions so what right does she have to feel resentful towards those who took the risk and made it big.
Are we not a little like Nora? Do we not beat ourselves up over decisions we could have made and the successes we would have obtained if we were just a little braver or adventurous or less shy?
In his book The Midnight Library, author Matt Haig demonstrates the want for the lives we let slip away. This book is not only about regrets. It is about mistakes, giving up, suicide, drugs, self-harm, realising other people's dreams, family approval and more.
The plot of the book seems simple and straightforward at the start. Between life and death, there is a grey area and in that area resides the Midnight Library. An infinite number of shelves with infinite possible lives. Sounds fascinating, does it not?
Except before she can access any book, that is, see a glimpse of another life she could have had, she has to see what and why led to those possibilities. There is a Book of Regret, and it is filled to the brim with everything Nora regretted in her 35 years of life. The concept almost seems cruel, why would anyone want to subject themselves to their book of regrets? However, she must. To know what she could have had, she must know what she did differently.
"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."
Nora led a 'safe' life; she did not take risks and she wanted to be simple. In the end, it was not enough, and she started to believe she will never amount to anything great. So, when presented with the opportunity to see her different lives, she did not hesitate to take it.
She saw what she could have had, and what could have been. What she could change and what she could not. Still dissatisfied, she returned to the Midnight Library, and understandably so. After all, the more possibilities we are shown, the more likely we are to imagine even greater things because of our broadening horizons.
Despite all that, it took Nora a long time to realise that what she was looking for, she had willingly left behind. This is a harsh truth that most of us do not fathom. Nora, being fictional, was given the luxury to hang between life and death and choose what she wanted and who she wanted to be. For most of us, it is often too late.
"She just needed potential. And she was nothing if not potential."
Our lives have been overtaken by a storm in the last few years with no signs of ending. People all around the world are experiencing different degrees of sadness, happiness, freedom, love, comfort and so much more.
The world and we are full of potential but like Nora, we often forget that bad times are not the only times. After every storm, there is chaos and devastation but do we not build ourselves back up?
"She realised, at that moment, that she was capable of a lot more than she had known."
It is easy to lose ourselves in misery as Nora did. The author depicted the struggles deep within one's identity and place in life in a gentle manner. Mental health problems are far more common than we realise. Thanks to the stigma surrounding it, no one is truly forthcoming.
Nora is like us and we are exactly like her. Haig did a brilliant job introducing a character with real flaws and problems into a fictional world. Perhaps he does this because when we write our narrative, we are far more kind.
Pleas for help are brushed off as jokes and called things like, 'it's just a phase' and 'mood swings'. When we see someone struggle, but we do not do what we can to help them, we are a roadblock to their sanity.
This book is proof that for everyone to be better off, we need to change our perceptions. We need to be better; we need to be kinder. Because remembering, silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.
Matt Haig's The Midnight Library was an instant New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2020 Goodreads Fiction award.