by Deborah Rogers –
I came away from our March online meeting feeling a little giddy! It was a huge turnout to discuss Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library, and gave us the opportunity to experiment with meeting “breakout rooms” where small groups could chat more easily. It was a high-energy experience and as I jumped in and out of the various discussions I got a wide range of impressions about the novel.
There was some debate about how to categorize the book to start – it’s fantasy, perhaps science fiction or maybe it could sit on the “self help” shelf. The story concerns Nora Seed, a young woman whose life has ended up small and disappointing. A series of events lead her to the conclusion that there’s no reason for her to exist anymore. What happens next is the leap of fantasy: Nora ends up in a library, an incredible place somewhere between life and death, and in it are books filled with the stories of the infinite lives she could have lived had her choices been different. Nora is able to try any of these lives, and we experience with her as she undoes her life’s regrets and figures out what really matters, and how to live a life with intention. Published mid-pandemic, The Midnight Library has been a bestseller around the globe, and has clearly resonated with readers with its reassuring messages about acceptance, self-worth and gratitude.
Our readers were in turns charmed, amused, frustrated and infuriated. I sensed perhaps a difference in reaction based on where in the reader’s life journey they were. I suspect this book appeals more to an audience that is younger than our group’s average age. There’s a youthful uncertainty about Nora’s interaction with the world, and it didn’t seem to connect with our group of readers who wished she was more proactive, more decisive and just a bit more dynamic.
Everyone did agree though on the appeal of the other recurring character, Mrs. Elm, the librarian of this Midnight Library. We talked about the power that a mentor can have in people’s lives, and for all of us readers, how books and the person who encouraged us to read them, are always significant.
Even though our group’s reaction to it wasn’t unanimously enthusiastic, this book seems to have come along at just the right time for readers around the world.
Next month we’re going to be discussing Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. Join us on April 13 at 6:30 p.m. – you need to sign up to our mailing list to get the meeting invite: www.seasidemagazine.ca/book-club/.