What We Are Reading Today: ‘Central Asia’ by Adel Khalid News

In death, there are no pit stops — or so we assume. What if you could stop for a moment and visit your alternate life across numerous multiverses? In “The Midnight Library,” the roads we could have taken are infinite.

In the New York Times Bestseller list-topping “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig, Nora, a depressed woman in her 30s, has finally given up on a life where she was just fired from her job, lost her cat, and no longer retains any intimate connections with friends and family. Filled with regret, she believes she should end her misery.

“Somewhere between life and death, there is a library,” the storyline proceeds. Nora finds herself surrounded by books, and there to guide her is a figment of Mrs. Elm, her school librarian who had shown her notable kindness as a student.

Mrs. Elm explains that there are countless possibilities to every life, and now that Nora has decided to die, gets one chance while time is halted at midnight to pursue all the possible lives and versions of herself she could have lived. If she is disappointed in one life, she returns to the library to select another. But if she finds the perfect one, she continues there until the memory of the library becomes as distant as a dream.

The reactions to this novel have been split: readers either love it or hate it.

For a book that contemplates quantum physics and the multiverse theory, the ideas are presented very plainly: “So why am I not dead? Why has death not come to me?” Nora asks. She also ponders a long string of “what ifs,” questioning whether they would have left her happier in this life.

In fact, these questions come up several times throughout the book, and Nora’s lessons from each journey are also stated after each return to the library, withdrawing the readers’ joy of indulging in their own perceptions. The book regrettably tells, rather than shows, the most essential takeaways from her disappointment in that life. Her regrets are listed, rather than developed.

This leads us to never become truly invested in Nora. She is presented as plainly as the average person, presumably as an attempt to create a relatable character, but we are never given a real reason to connect with her dispair. However, it is notable to mention that many have enjoyed the book and took comfort in its portrayal of depression. Others thought it was oversimplified.

For such an intricate notion, her questions come off as almost trivial. But that could also be a choice on Haig’s part, as “human brains take complex information about the world and simplify it,” Mrs. Elm explains.

While the work is generally an enjoyable and quick read, the only real redeeming quality is the premise, but even that becomes rather diluted with fluff, repetitive ponderings, and lack of character development.

Throughout our lives, we have all wondered what simple decisions could have altered our paths. This idea has been contemplated for centuries, but what the book fails to do is give us a new perspective on it. Haig leaves us with the exhausted, and frankly insensitive, notion that it could always be worse, so be grateful for what you have.

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