Why I didn’t like “The Midnight Library”
For a while, I’ve been looking for an adult fiction book about mental health, and this one seemed promising. It’s a genre hard to find, fiction mental health books are mainly directed to a teen audience, with teen characters and their teen problems. I think our society tends to invisibilize mental subjects such as depression or bipolar disorder in adults because… I don’t know. We’re supposed to have it all in check by our thirties? I’m not there yet, but I know for facts that depression never fades, it’s a state you struggle with for a long time; even more, if you’re suicidal as the protagonist of this novel.
Here’s the premise (and spoilers): our protagonist is Nora, a depressed woman in her thirties who is not living the life she hoped for, and after a very crappy day ends attempting suicide. Then we found out that between life and death there’s a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of an alternate reality of our life. Our girl Nora tries out several of her alternate lives until she, somehow, decides she doesn’t want to die anymore.
It sounds interesting enough, especially coming from a man, Matt Haig, who is known to write about mental health. At first, I was hooked, then slightly annoyed, and by the end, I was just eye-rolling.
The book is marketed to an adult audience, but the book is written in a very plain way, full of cringy dialogues and overstatements. I can even say that the best quotes were actually… quotes from other books, mainly from philosophers (Thoreau, Camus, Sartre) and Sylvia Plath. The author explains to us the library several times in the same chapter, as we’re children. On the same note, Nora is supposed to be a thirty-something full-on adult, and she’s written as a teen; not taking responsibility for her own decisions, at times just being pathetic and very shallow. That makes her unrelatable as an adult reader, and frankly just unlikeable.
The predictability of the first chapters was disappointing, how obvious it was what were the lives she was going to visit and their outcomes. From the start, it felt dull and gave me “Bedazzled” movie vibes, with the whole “I wish for this life, but this thing I haven’t anticipated made me not wanting it anymore”.
And about the ending… I really can’t emphasize enough how frustrated and angry I am. It was exactly the disappointing ending I was anticipating; it felt rushed and highly unrealistic, even for fiction. Your problems and depression won’t fix themselves magically in one day, especially if you attempted suicide. It requires firstly a close medical observation and a ton of therapy. I think is very irresponsible of the author to portray recovery from depression this way, it’s for this kind of media people gets the wrong idea of how mental illness works.
“‘Life begins,’ Sartre once wrote, ‘on the other side of despair.’”