Publication date: September 2020
Category: Time Travel Fiction
Review, short version: Four skunks out of four.
Review, long version:
Every week I look at the New York Times lists of best-selling hardcover fiction and nonfiction.
And every week, for more than a year, I’ve seen this:
The Midnight Library.
It’s held different positions on the fiction best seller list, but it’s been there.
As of the above March 13 list: 64 weeks.
When I first heard about the book, I went on Amazon to read the description and thought, “I’ll pass.”
But Midnight Library continued to appear on the list, week after week.
And since I’m always looking for books, I thought, “Maybe I’ll give it another look.”
When I went back to Amazon, The Midnight Library had more than 140,000 reviews.
I’m on Amazon a lot, and I’d never seen a number that high.
And not only a high number, but great high number: 4.3 out of 5 stars.
And I thought, “OK, I’ll give Midnight Library a try.”
So I did, and – ugh.
Once again I’m out of step with the general reading population.
The lead character is Englishwoman Nora Seed, 35. In the beginning of the book, Nora’s life is shit, and it gets worse.
Here’s how she describes herself on page 13:
“A black hole. A dying star, collapsing in on itself.”
She decides to die.
Instead, Nora ends up in the Midnight Library, a between-life-and-death place where she’ll be able to try on many different lives – paths she could have chosen, but didn’t.
Her Midnight Library mentor through all this is Mrs. Elm, her school librarian, who’d been kind to Nora in the past.
When Nora goes off to try a different life, if she doesn’t want to stay in that life, she’s somehow returned to the library and then does a postmortem with Mrs. Elm.
Nora tries out a life where she didn’t jilt her fiancé shortly before the wedding. She realizes she doesn’t want that life and returns to the Midnight Library. Then a life where her cat doesn’t die, and then she returns. Then a life if she’d gone to Australia, and again she returns.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I didn’t enjoy Midnight Library and figured it was my fault – I was missing the point. So I tracked down reviews from when the book first came out, including in the New York Times and Washington Post. Both writers wrote at length and were full of praise, and I realized I wasn’t missing the point at all.
The point was that old tried and true, “There’s no place like home.”
If you’re one of the three people who hasn’t read Midnight Library, you sure have your choice of how: Hardback, paperback, large print, eBook, audio CD, spiral-bound, and Kindle, plus it’s been translated into something like 30 languages, including Persian:
Once you’ve chosen your preferred format, if you’re really into it, you can read by the light of this candle inspired by The Midnight Library that claims to be “book scented”:
What is “book scented”?
“This blend is our interpretation of the scents you’d find within a magical library – aged pages, antique sandalwood, middle notes of tobacco leaf, teakwood, warm amber, and of course…elm.”
“Middle notes.” Uh-huh.
The Midnight Library film rights have been optioned:
That was in September 2020 but there’s no sign of it Coming Soon! to any theater near you, or anywhere.
Perhaps Midnight Library, The Movie is off trying out other lives.
Perhaps the movie will return with a lead character who, instead of being a suicidal, 35-year-old “black hole. A dying star, collapsing in on itself” is, instead, a fresh-faced, singing 10-year-old who’s realized…