Today is Scott Bakula’s birthday. You may know this actor in the crime drama he plays on television, but back in the early nineties he was a time traveling scientific wonder, jumping from life to life in the serialized show Quantum Leap. Matt Haig uses this construct to create an entertaining story in The Midnight Library.
The heroine, Nora Seed, is so despondent and dissatisfied with her life, she sees no reason to live. Cue the angel in the Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Ms. Elm, the kind and generous librarian who manages the midnight library, appears with a trove of books documenting Nora’s life and regrets as the stacks precariously slide along the ethereal walls. Before she dies, Nora has the chance to be in lives that might have been, and the adventure begins.
Who hasn’t wondered about the ‘road not taken,” life decisions leading to inevitable consequences. What if another choice had been made? How would a different decision have affected your personal life, your career, your impact on others, your contribution to the world? We can only speculate, but Nora gets the chance to really experience the results of other choices she might have made.
The book of regrets reminds Nora of what she might have done, and she starts a series of quantum leaps through the universe, reliving her life as a successful rock star, wife of a pub owner, glaciologist fighting a polar bear, revered author and professor, married, unmarried, with children, without children – the possibilities are endless but Haig sticks to just enough detours to convince the reader that Nora is probably happiest back in her old life.
And like the song, “Back in Your Old Backyard,” Nora finds herself seeing the life she has as not so bad, with still time for constructive changes.
The Midnight Library offers some respite from reality, and a reminder to be grateful for what we have, no matter how dire the circumstances.