The Midnight Library
If you’re a fan of magical realism, you’ll enjoy this one as much as I did. The premise of The Midnight Library is that a woman wishing to die finds herself, at the stroke of midnight on what might be the last day of her life, in a library filled with books about the many lives she could have lived if she had made different choices.
Sounds morbid. But it is not. The protagonist Nora Seed, even in her dark moments, is a likable character. She is well-conceived and fleshed-out. Though I’ve never been in her situation, I could totally identify with her.
That speaks for the strength of this author. A word on that in a bit.
First, there are other characters besides Nora who are likable. There’s Mrs. Elm, the librarian in the Midnight Library, who was also the librarian in Nora’s high school and a woman who was unfailingly kind to her then. Mrs. Elm cared deeply about Nora. I was grounded by this each time the story returned to The Midnight Library. But I also felt oddly grounded by Nora’s brother, by her best friend, by a man who could be a big part of her future, and by so many other characters she comes to know in other lives.
Now, yes, a word on the writing. It is perfect, alternately lyrical and simple. Analogies and metaphors are spot-on. The author clearly understands the thought processes of the people he includes in this book. And the plot? Well-paced to the Nth degree.
If I want to quibble, there were moments, as I listened to the audiobook, when I wished that its reader had better delineated several voices that were too similar, making it hard to know who was saying what. Likewise, I was confused at one point by the premise. I had assumed that the books in the library were based on lives that the main character had actually considered.
Not so. There were many, many books in The Midnight Library to show Nora things that, literally, with a different set of choices, she might have known.
These two drawbacks paled before the imagination and sheer storytelling skill of the author. I found The Midnight Library thoroughly satisfying. It made me think about choices I’ve made myself…makes me think still.