What if you could live life all over again?

( Book review : The Midnight Library )

Do you have regrets in life? 

Do you wish you had done things differently?  Made different choices than the one you did? Different choices during school?  Marriage?  Career?

Maybe if only…you studied harder and got into that ivy-league college.  Then life would be so much better.  Corporate doors would bang open for you to proudly strut through.  You would be working on the most exciting, cutting edge ideas in the world.  And your career & money problems would be ancient history.

Or if only…you married a different person.  Someone who understood you better.  Someone who would support you.  Instead of challenge you.  Life would be ever so blissful. 

Or if only…you dared to follow your passion.  Sport. Art.  Music. Sure the money may not be great.  But who knows, the money may be great too. Regardless, at least you’d feel alive!

I don’t know about you, but I have regrets.  Things I said, I did, that I wish I hadn’t.  Stuff that I didn’t say and didn’t do, that I wish I did. 

Of course, life rarely turns out the way we plan.  Deep down we know that every decision has consequences that we hadn’t envisioned.  But even then. If only, I had another chance to grow up once again.

Spoiler alert:

Following is a review of The Midnight Library.  I have shared a bit of the plot.  Depending on your tolerance for spoilers, read further or stop right here.

About the Midnight Library:

In the book, the Midnight Library, Nora Seed’s regret was intense.  Leaving her depressed.  Driving her insane.  To commit suicide. 

The cosmos and greater reality in her favour, instead of death, Nora wakes up in a library. A library that allows her to revisit her life.  Revisiting it as if she had made different decisions: 

  • If she decided to follow her passion. 
  • If she decided to marry. 
  • If she did make several different career choices.

Being a movie and story buff, the plot does get predictable.  But Matt Haig’s storytelling is masterful. It keeps me going.  I turn yet another page. Read the next chapter. I have to get to closure. “What would Nora decide?  Which life would she choose?” 

And in the process, I am rewarded with epiphan-ettes.  I realise that:

  • I can spend an obscene amount of hours ruminating on “what if ?”.  All the while glazing over “what is.”
  • The grass is not greener on the other side.  But it’s greener on the side that I water it. 
  • The idea of perfection is exactly that…an idea. Rarely translates to reality the way we imagine it.
  • The power of dogged determination, grit, persistence. 
  • Never underestimate the big impact of small actions.

Reminiscent of Frank Capra’s classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” with a dash of Pixar’s “Soul”, thrown in.  The Midnight Library celebrates life and the joy in everyday living.

Give it a go. I’m glad I read it.

Excerpts:

In case you don’t plan to read it, here are a sprinkling of excerpts that connected with me.

“Regrets don’t leave. They weren’t mosquito bites. They itch for ever.”

“The only way to learn is to live.”

“If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise.”

“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed 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.

It is easy to regret and keep regretting, ad infinitum until our time runs out."

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. We can’t tell if any of those other versions would have been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.”

Ps. Thank you Preet, for the recommendation!


The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
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