Archive for the ‘life choices’ Tag

Checking Out Life’s Choices   Leave a comment

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The Midnight Library is a point between life and death rather than a repository for books. The premise of Matt Haig’s novel is based on life choices with all of its regrets and often overlooked joys. Some decisions are major and others less so, but all have an impact. This is not a duh discovery, though. Instead, Haig offers, through Nora Seed, the opportunity to experience parts of her unchosen lives until she finds the one she’s actually meant to live.

Depressed, alone and uninspired, Nora decides she’s better off dead.  Immediately following her suicide attempt, she finds herself at the Midnight Library which her high school librarian oversees. There are no other patrons and all of the shelves contain books about the different paths Nora might have taken based on her actual family, interests and relationships.

Thinking about the literal road not taken (yes, Frost’s poem is referenced) is engaging. There’s an element of mystery as Nora opens one book after another while trying to the find the right life. Although she considers many, time is running out. Nora needs to make a decision before her death becomes a point of no return.

Nora’s successes and pitfalls involve the usual: love, friends, family and career choices. With each book she opens, Nora learns more about herself and the world around her. There’s a sense of Ebenezer Scrooge’s experience here. Nora gets a wake-up call regarding her life, which, as it turns out, isn’t such a bad thing for anyone

 The Midnight Library

Four Bookmarks     

Viking, 2020

288 pages                                                                                                                          

Again and Again and …   2 comments

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Attempting to describe Kate Atkinson’s most recent novel, Life After Life, is like sharing a recipe that’s undergone several transformations or tweaks here and there. The end result may be familiar, but the process is not.

Jumping from pre-war Germany to the halcyon country life of the Todd family to London in various parts of the first and second World Wars, Atkinson takes the Groundhog Day concept of redoing things – life – until they’re done right, or at least differently. Paying close attention to the chapter headings is essential.

Ursula Todd’s personal history is told with variations beginning with several involving the day she was born. These range from death at childbirth to the family doctor arriving in time to ensure her survival. The Todd family remains constant, as do most of the other characters and events. Some are slightly altered, while others undergo major conversions, but all are interesting, some uncomfortable and a few are actually happy. Even the Veal ala Russe, a favorite of the Todd family cook, Mrs. Glover, makes recurring appearances, but none reflect an improvement on the dish.

The underlying theme of the novel is to question what happens if one had never been born. Or, what if Ursula had been more assertive at certain points in her life, or what if she shared troubling observations with those around her? Of course, no one ever knows, which is what makes Atkinson’s work so intriguing; she offers a slew of possibilities right up to the final pages.

Life After Life
Four Bookmarks
Little Brown and Co., 2013
529 pages