Audiobook

REVIEW: The Midnight Library

“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

The average adult makes approximately 35,000 decision a day – some consciously, others not. And each decision results in a specific direction or outcome that would be different, were we to make a different choice.

At 35, Nora Seed is sad. She’s just lost her retail job at String Theory, a guitar shop, that she’s held for 12 years. Her cat, Voltaire, was found dead on the side of the road. She’s estranged from her older brother. She does not want to live and is certain she will not be missed. So she makes a choice to end her life.

But life had different plans.

Nora doesn’t die. She ends up in a sort of limbo, in between life and death, at the Midnight Library. Staffed by her elementary school librarian, Mrs. Elm, Nora is presented first with a doorstop of a book that holds all of her regrets. There are so many, she can only read a couple at a time. Mrs. Elm has her close the book and focus on the choices she can make. Each book in this infinite collection, is a version of her life that goes a different way simply by making a different choice.

But Nora is done making choices and she’s ready to die. She want’s to die.

Mrs. Elm says if that were the case, she would not have ended up at the Midnight Library.

“Want,’ she told her, in a measured tone, ‘is an interesting word. It means lack. Sometimes if we fill that lack with something else the original want disappears entirely. Maybe you have a lack problem rather than a want problem. Maybe there is a life that you really want to live.”

And so, an adventure of sorts begins. Whenever Nora steps into a new life, she can stay and settle in, or if she remains disappointed, she can return to the library. There is a catch though, while there are infinite books meaning and endless amount of lives and possibilities, there is not an endless supply of time. The duration of her time to decide is unknown.

What could end up being a book of doom and gloom or pointless repetition ends up being a gem of a story — no, stories — about the possibilities that life can offer. The audiobook version narrated by Carey Mulligan as extra depth. Author Haig delivers so many good nuggets about patience, kindness, creativity, and curiosity. And there are important reminders, like this one:

“There are patterns to life . . . Rhythms. It is so easy, while trapped in just the one life, to imagine that times of sadness or tragedy or failure or fear are a result of that particular existence. That it is a by-product of living a certain way, rather than simply living. I mean, it would have made things a lot easier if we understood there was no way of living that can immunise you against sadness. And that sadness is intrinsically part of the fabric of happiness. You can’t have one without the other. Of course, they come in different degrees and quantities. But there is no life where you can be in a state of sheer happiness for ever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you’re in.”

The Midnight Library came into my life at an important time. When I, along with so many others, are dealing with major Covid pandemic fatigue. When I, along with so many others, have a loved one that deals with depression. When, I along with so many others, are getting by turning off the news, and turning to books. Especially books that remind us there is so much to experience in this life, even if every day isn’t picture perfect.

The Nest

The NestMonths away from each inheriting a massive sum of money—life-changing money—Jack, Melody, and Bea Plumb learn the cash they have been counting on is gone. The Nest has been drained to cover up eldest, favorite, and married son Leo’s indiscretion involving a 19-year old waitress, a car accident, and rehab. This executive decision by Mama Plumb results in the already dysfunctional family kicking it into high gear.

Sweeney writes with a good balance cleverness and snark while weaving in some tenderness as the Plumb siblings’ secrets and fears unravel across the pages of this engaging debut. Jack has secretly borrowed against the vacation home he shares with his husband to keep his antiques business afloat. Melody and her husband are upside down on their mortgage and have twin daughters just a year from college, and baby sister Bea is a published author that had to return the publishing advance on her second novel when she couldn’t produce. In a nutshell, they all needed The Nest and are after Leo to get it back.

The Plumbs aren’t perfect. In fact, most of them are a bit self absorbed in the way that we all are. But Sweeney has crafted a family of imperfect people, who act in selfish, dysfunctional, unimaginable, sweet, and, ultimately human ways. If you need an escape, The Nest, is a great distraction.

3 Stars
368 pages or 11 hours via Audible
Fiction

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

f5b0e41325260a2b830f6a706700852bEarlier this month, I snagged a deal on Living Social that got me a three-month Audible.com membership for just $8.00 per month. Normally, a membership runs $14.95 per month, so it was kind of a no brainer: a discount involving books that I could read while I drove to work when I couldn’t normally read? Uhm, okay. Sign me up.

I downloaded Karin Slaughter’s Pretty Girls, as my first “read”. I thought a mystery would be a good pick for an audio book, because I wanted something that would keep my attention and have enough action to keep me engaged in this consumption format. Well, let me tell you what. Pretty Girls was a perfect audio pick; and I realized this when I had to pull over at one point to catch my breath. Yeah, that really happened.

Pretty Girls centers around sisters Claire and Lydia, sisters whose lives were irrevocably changed when their older sister Julia was kidnapped and never found. Fast forward 20 years and the sisters don’t speak and live vastly different lives: Claire is married to one of Atlanta’s most successful businessmen, and Lydia is working to maintain sobriety while raising a daughter on her own.

It was the tragedy of their sister’s disappearance that drove them apart and the murder of Claire’s husband that brings them together. The reunion is hardly welcome, and the two women must now navigate life with old wounds ripped open and new secrets as Claire learns her husband’s murder was not a simple random act of violence.

Pretty Girls is not for the faint of heart. It’s gritty, gristly, and gruesome. It will make your heart race and plummet. If you are new to audio books, I highly recommend listening to voice actor Kathleen Early read this dark and twisted story that will stay with you long after the last word is spoken.

4 Stars