cover image The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library

Matt Haig. Viking, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-525-55947-4

Haig (How to Stop Time) draws on quantum wave theory in this charming if sometimes laborious account of the many possible lives of a depressed woman. Nora, in her mid-30s and living in the small English town of Bedford, suffers from “situational depression”—though, as she wryly observes, “It’s just that I keep on having new... situations.” After she gets fired from her job and her cat dies, she attempts suicide, only to wake up in a book-lined liminal zone, where she is guided by a librarian: “Between life and death there is a library... Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived.” There, Nora discovers what would have happened had she not abandoned her promising swimming career, called off her engagement, or left the rock band she started with her brother. Each time an alternate life disappoints or doesn’t feel quite right, Nora exits, reappearing in the library to continue browsing for the perfect story. While the formula grows repetitive, the set changes provide novelty, as Haig whisks Nora from Australian beaches to a South American rock concert tour to an Arctic encounter with a polar bear. Haig’s agreeable narrative voice and imagination will reward readers who take this book off the shelf. (Sept.)