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Many of us humans, flawed and egotistical as we are, believe our own interpretations are the only correct or accurate ones.

We get so wrapped up in our thoughts and feelings, it’s easy to forget that there might be another side of things.

“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig helps readers recognize that they might be looking at things too narrowly.  They realize there really might be another side to things, and that admitting another side won’t be as devastating as they may believe.  They come to see that a stressed-out, anxiety-ridden person who is beating themselves up over past decisions and actions can feel a great freedom from acknowledging “the other side.”

"The Midnight Library" by Matt Haig
“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig forces us to realize that no matter which path we choose, we are responsible, writes reviewer Cathy Chavez.

This book is about Nora, a woman who is haunted by her past decisions and actions.  She accidentally lets her cat out of the house one stormy night – the same night she decides to end her own life.  Before she can follow through with her decision, a neighbor finds the body of her cat, returns it to her, and sets off a tale involving Nora’s visit to the “Midnight Library” while she is suspended between life and death.


In that state of suspension, Nora is given the chance to live potentially endless lives, all based on her making a different choice at any point in her life.  She can return to the library and make different choices as often as she wishes. When Nora chooses to keep her cat in the house and not let him out, she learns that bad things still happen, and that it’s not healthy nor helpful to immediately take the blame.

Matt Haig, author of The Midnight Library
Matt Haig, author of “The Midnight Library” (photo credit Taylor Herring, Flickr)

We’ve all been under so much stress for the last six years.  We’ve endured leaders who want to take us back to a time when anyone who is not a white, wealthy male is deemed of no value, when too many people have accepted the killings of People of Color, and when an overall lack of compassion has left many of us questioning our futures and the direction we’re headed.

“Midnight Library” forces the question: who are we blaming?

This is one reason I feel this book is so popular.  It forces readers to confront the question of who we blame for our stress and unhappiness.  The easy answer – everyone but ourselves – can be very soothing, but also very dangerous.  If we become too comfortable in freeing ourselves from responsibility or blame, how will we fix our own problems?  How will we truly experience a life fully lived?

Life will always be difficult.  Fully living is not always happiness and joy; it involves experiencing the intricacies of human emotion, both positive and negative.  The goal is to do our best and accept that we can’t, and won’t, be perfect.  We’ll make good and bad choices; we’ll make mistakes.  We’ll have days that are beautiful in all their imperfections and other days that are dark.  This book helps many people realize this.

I read this book over the summer and didn’t immediately love it.  However, I found myself returning to the message within the story and I’ve come to appreciate it.  I’ve shared the book with many and now whole heartedly recommend it.  Let it sit with YOUR soul.  Appreciate the feelings you have while reading and after.  I guarantee it will be worthwhile even if, as with me, it takes time for the message to take hold.

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Author Cathy Chavez is a lifelong reader, longtime book club member, and medical student education administrator in the University of Iowa Stead Family Department of Pediatrics. You can reach her at