“One Hundred Names”, one hundred stories

Bestselling author, John Green, once wrote that there are some books that are “so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.” Truthfully, that was how I felt after reading Cecelia Ahern‘s novel One Hundred Names. I read this book a few months ago, and initially I had no intention of writing about it. I loved it. The book spoke to me, and it felt like a betrayal to broadcast my admiration for it.

Ahern, the internationally bestselling author, delivers her biggest and most compelling story yet — a tale of secrets, second chances, storytelling, and the hidden connections that unite our lives. And most of all, finding the extraordinary in what appears to be something ordinary.

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

Honestly, the reason why I was initially drawn to this book was because the main character was a journalist. I know – it sounds ridiculous. But in my experience, journalists always come out the bad guy in books and stories. Many have even referred to them as “vultures”. I am a journalist, and I am determined to eradicate these stereotypes.

I strive to be a good journalist – telling the truth, and sharing stories – and I believe that most are. But it can be understood, if not condoned, how some can get swept up in a story and get carried away with themselves. When I realised that’s what happened to Kitty, I wanted to see how she carried on from there and how she recovered from that – basically, I wanted to know what she learned from it.

Ahern makes us take a look at the core journalistic values. By this, I simply mean the principles of both ethics and good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by journalists. In today’s world where some stories are just unfair, hell bent on giving someone a bad name or reputation, or even just about the massive breaking news, Ahern reminds us of what a story really is.

At the end of the day, a journalists job is to find the truth and then share it. That’s what we expect a journalist’s story to be – truthful, accurate, impartial and accountable. However, Ahern reminds us that the stories we consider exciting and important, aren’t always the exciting and important stories. She says:

“To seek the truth is not necessarily to go on a mission all guns blazing in order to reveal a lie, neither is it to be particularly ground-breaking – it is simply to get to the heart of what is real.” – Cecelia Ahern, One Hundred Names

With all the drama going on in her life, Kitty has lost sight of the reason why she wanted to be a journalist. She lost sight of the why she loves the job she does – not for the fame, the money, or even the drama, but for something else entirely. Determined to remind her of herself, her mentor and widely respected writer, Constance, gives Kitty her final story before she regrettably passes away.

Constance’s message to Kitty is the deeper meaning to the story, which is the main reason why I loved this book so much. Away from a journalist’s point of view, away from news stories, away from anything else. Ahern teaches us that people who believe that they are not interesting, usually are the most interesting of all.

Everything is a story, and every single person has a story to tell. When people ask us, “what’s your story?” we all believe that we are not interesting enough to have one. When we think of a story, we think it has to be something crazy, unbelievable, outstanding, noteworthy and noble.

What Ahern remind us of, is this:

“Every single ordinary person has an extraordinary story.” – Cecelia Ahern, One Hundred Names

We are all remarkable in our own way, and every single person has a remarkable story. We never think we are worthy of a story, when in fact, our stories are amazing. This is the one thing that every single person has in common: we all have an extraordinary story, and that’s pretty damn remarkable.

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