Trigger warning: Suicide, death of a pet.
There’s Heaven. Hell. Purgatory.
And the Library.
Our book opens with Nora, hapless, down on her luck. She’s fallen out with her brother, she has crippling regret about, well, almost everything. She didn’t stay on the path to be an Olympic swimmer. She didn’t study to be a Glaciologist. She didn’t stay in her brother’s rock band (which is why they fell out, she assumes). She didn’t marry Dan, which she fears may have been very foolish indeed. She didn’t move to Australia with her bestie, and now they have lost touch. She didn’t. She didn’t. She didn’t.
And today, she got fired from a boring job she didn’t like very much, but needed, and then her cat died.
So, she decides that the world is better off without her. And she takes a bunch of pills, writes a couple notes, and waits for oblivion.
And then she wakes up, in the Library.
What’s the good of living if you don’t try a few things?Charles M. Schultz
The Library is fascinating. It contains infinite books, each a different shade of green. Each book contains a different version of Nora’s life. Each decision that she has ever made—do I get married, do I move to Australia, do I get the sesame bagel or the egg sandwich—each one generates a new book, with a new outcome.
And while Nora can’t go back and live all those lives, she can step into their aftermath. She can open a book, and see how her life would have turned out if she had stayed with the band, if she had stayed a competitive swimmer, if she had married Dan. She can walk right into those lives, right now, and see what would have *happened*.
So she does. She stays in some lives for moments, some for days, some for weeks. In some lives, she is miserable. In some, fulfilled. In one, blissfully happy. But each of the lives feels…wrong. Nothing feels like her life, because they aren’t. But with every life she shrugs off, she gets closer to the truth, which is that she wants to live in HER life.
We have all had those thoughts. What if I’d gone to Bryn Mawr, what if I’d become an actress, what if I had declined my husband’s offer of a pizza? What if I hadn’t gone to grad school, what if I had gotten a PhD, what if we had bought that townhouse I loved? Would I be thin, would I be rich, would I be happy? Maybe.
But I wouldn’t be me, and that seems to be the whole point.
So, if you could take any book off the shelf, which life would you want to see played out? I’ll take answers in the comments.