“Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on for ever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be different if you had made other choices…Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’”
We’re introduced to Nora after she experiences a series of rejections and loss, and she’s brought to the midnight library after she has attempted to take her own life. Each ‘book,’ a different confrontation with a regret or life choice, Nora experiences what each of her lives could have been and wrestles with what made her feel fulfilled in each one. Was it career success? Happiness in relationships? Accolades and accomplishments?
She learns that relationships were of the highest value to her, both the relationship she held with those around her and the relationship she held with herself. She finds freedom in the acceptance of herself, completely and wholly, releasing the expectations of others that she’d allowed to dictate her decisions. I loved watching Nora gain ownership over her life, becoming an active participant, rather than watching life happen to her. By the “A Thing I Have Learned” chapter, I was over-highlighting quotes and overly excited with who she had grown to become.
Overall, I felt that the storyline was a digestible approach to a much more serious topic. Although the discussion of mental health, suicide and anxiety is triggering and sensitive, the structure of the book itself was lite – I could pick back up anytime to read in short spurts and could easily place myself into Nora’s scenarios of regret in order to reflect upon my own life.
My biggest takeaways from Nora included choosing to see the joy in the unknown, viewing rejection as re-direction – a door closes so another can open – and identifying the barriers in my life that keep me from seeing truth. A quote I’m taking with me is “You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live it; the only way to learn is to LIVE.” May we all be a “Mrs. Elm” to one another: an unlikely friend, an encourager, and a mirror to truth when those around us can’t see it in themselves.
Definitely keeping this on my bookshelf and adding Matt Haig’s bestselling memoir, “How to Stay Alive” to my must-read list.