I know that Matt Haig is an important author, particularly drawing attention to mental health issues in many of his novels, but this is the first one I have read. And yes I loved it, far more than I expected to. I can tell that this is the sort of book I will re-read more than once!
Like many of his books, he is drawing attention to mental health issues (this time through fiction) such as depression and anxiety and what can sometimes result: Suicide. This book could be triggering for some, though there is not a lot of detail surrounding the act of suicide; however, the word does come up throughout. The great aspect of this book, is that it can be likened to “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol” the protagonist gets to experience different aspects of her life and finds out what would happen if she were not there; or if she had made different decisions.
The Midnight Library is a place that she travels to whilst she is in limbo (neither alive or dead) and she gets to “try out” any life she wants to; lives that she could have had if she had made different decisions; she gets to become: an Olympic swimmer, a glaciologist, a rockstar, an owner of a winery, an owner of a country pub, someone who works at an animal shelter and many more lives that she could have had; and within each life she learns something new and it helps her to not feel as regretful as she learns more.
I particularly love this quote about being “you”:
“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 made me think about my own life; not that I would want to change it, being married with children, whom I would never trade in for anything; but I wouldn’t mind trading in my career for something I was passionate about. Based on the premise of ‘what if you made different decisions?’, I could have been: a teacher, a vet, a lawyer, a singer, an author, working in a shop, running my own business, an occupational psychologist, a counseller, HR professional or a mother of many children (like my grandmother). It does make you wonder, what if?
I loved the ending and I think anyone who is feeling low would probably find this book beneficial, you will also enjoy the story if your mental health is top-notch, as it is very clever. Of course if you suspect you might have depression or feel that you need help, please get in touch with your Doctor or call the Samaritans, or even reach out to a helpful friend or family member. Don’t go through your pain alone.
I had post-natal depression after my daughter was born, and there were a few moments when I fantasised about driving my car off a bridge. My depression became bad enough that my health visitor noticed and asked me to speak to the Doctor, who then arranged counselling for me; which really helped, talking out loud about your feelings and problems can be more therapeutic than you might imagine. I have had low moments during some of our Covid lockdowns, but luckily not as bad as or a low as I was a few years ago.
Please don’t assume the world will be better without you, it will not be better. You are needed and you are loved even if you do not realise it right now.
To end this book review on a slightly lighter note, if you could choose 3 alternate career paths for yourself, what would they be? Mine would be Teacher, Singer or HR Trainer.
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