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Cecelia Ahern reminds us that we can get through our worst in “One Hundred Names”

Cecelia Ahern writes about flawed characters. Well, I say flawed but what I actually mean is real. They’re far from perfect – they make mistakes, they have regrets, they mess up. But in life, we all do. The point, though, is that we learn from those mistakes and better ourselves for next time; that we take those mistakes and let them make us stronger.

Although Ahern writes about characters that are flawed, they all have one important thing in common: they are all good at heart. Ahern is one of those authors who still believes in the goodness of people. You can tell from her stories that she believes people are good, that they’re beautiful, and from her novel One Hundred Names, Ahern teaches us that the best and most beautiful thing about life is the story that each of us has to share.

Scandal has derailed journalist Kitty Logan’s career, a setback that is soon compounded by an even more devastating loss. Constance, the woman who taught Kitty everything she knew, is dying. At her mentor’s bedside, Kitty asks her, “What is the one story you always wanted to write?”

The answer lies in a single sheet of paper buried in Constance’s office—a list of one hundred names—with no notes or explanation. But before Kitty can ask her friend, it is too late.

Determined to unlock the mystery and rebuild her own shaky confidence, Kitty throws herself into the investigation, tracking down each of the names on the list and uncovering their connection. Meeting these ordinary people and learning their stories, Kitty begins to piece together an unexpected portrait of Constance’s life… and starts to understand her own.

OHN

At first glance, this novel could be written off as any other chit-lit story, but in fact it’s much more than that. It’s the kind of novel that makes you take notice. This story – or stories, really – opens you up to the all of the interesting things you encounter every day that you might never have noticed before.

I’ve wrote about One Hundred Names before, and how Ahern uses story to teach us that people who believe that they are not interesting, usually are the most interesting of all. But that is the obvious message of the story – the one you can’t miss, the message that has a grand reveal at the end of the novel.

But I also wanted to write about the deeper message of this story, a message that Ahern gives us through the character of Kitty – the idea that there is always a way to go on and that despite our losses, despite our hardships, despite the fact that we want to give up every step of the way, it can be good again. That having something to hope for, even if it’s just a better tomorrow, is enough to keep us going.

“And then one good thing happened that day, the first good thing, the only good thing, but sometimes you only ever need one good thing.” 
– Cecelia Ahern, One Hundred Names

Kitty loses so much in short space of time, and in the midst of all that loss, gets hurt to the point that she doesn’t know how to go on, or even if she wants to. After making some mistakes she questions everything she knows about herself, about her work, about what she thought she wanted.

Kitty is a tough character. She’s strong. But it doesn’t matter how tough we are, trauma always leaves its mark – it follows us home, it changes our lives, it messes us up. Still, maybe that’s the point of all the pain and the fear and hurt. Maybe going through all of that is what keeps us going and pushes us. Maybe we have to get a little messed up before we can really step up.

The main thing to take from Kitty’s journey is that when we wonder why things have to suck so much sometimes and why it has to hurt so bad, we have to remember that one day it won’t. That’s how you survive when it hurts so much that you can’t breathe, by remembering, somehow, impossibly, it won’t always feel that way and won’t always hurt so much.

“I cannot get through this day. But I did. Somehow. And then that day was over and I was facing the night and I said to myself, I cannot face this night. But I did. Somehow.”
– Cecelia Ahern, One Hundred Names

One Hundred Names is a story about the strength of the human spirit and our ability to carry on on the days we don’t think we can. It is a reminder that sometimes, even if we think we can’t, we find that time always goes on and we can find the quiet strength to keep going even if we don’t realise it.

 “Each second is rather torturous, as though it will never move on, and as though it will never get any easier, and yet when I look back on it, look where we are. Two weeks on. And I’m doing it. And I still believe I simply cannot.”
– Cecelia Ahern, One Hundred Names

In short, this book is a reminder why we should never give up. Things in life will knock us to the ground, but those things are tests and they force us to choose between staying down and giving up or letting us use it to make us stronger and stand taller. Ahern gives us a story that inspires us to never stay on the ground.

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