One Hundred Names
by Cecelia Ahern
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
4 / 5
Kitty Logan’s life is in the dumper.
For one thing, her journalism career is going up in flames, thanks to an ill-begotten story that Kitty not only aired on television, but pursued doggedly for half a year. Her boyfriend moved out, something Kitty herself isn’t even the first to notice, and her beloved mentor Constance has died, leaving Kitty a list of 100 names that apparently are not connected in the least.
Granted, Constance was a bit eccentric and capricious, chasing after story angles that other journalists would view nonsensical. This is a woman, after all, who hid her passports in the toaster and her wine in the potting shed. What is Kitty supposed to do with these 100 names?
Her editor, Peter, thinks it’s all rubbish, but he wants to honor Constance, so he agrees to let Kitty pursue the story – even if no one knows what the story is. Kitty, however, is damaged goods; advertisers threaten to pull their business if the magazine publishes Kitty’s work. That’s almost the least of her concerns, though: her apartment routinely is vandalized, including feces smeared on the door.
Ah, yes. The least of HER problems.
Therein lines the lesson Kitty must learn: it is not, contrary to what she thinks, all about her.
Kitty ruined a man’s life with her reporting. Rather than acknowledge the pain she inflicted, she instead focuses on her own suffering, much to the dismay of her best friend Sam. He’s there for her when she needs him, but he too often feels disgusted with her.
Kitty responds by seeking solace in all the wrong places. She is a difficult character to like because she is so selfish and self-focused, but Cecelia Ahern doesn’t want you to like her heroine. As with Sam and the rest of the cast, we must be patient with Kitty. We have to decide if she’s worth our loyalty and faith (spoiler: she is).
The 100 names narrows down to six (the first six, perhaps) that Kitty pursues. Each has his or her own story, and Kitty cannot find the common thread. She insinuates herself into these people’s lives, determined to figure out why Constance wrote down their names. What is it about them that Kitty is to discover?
Kitty’s voyage of self-discovery, then, transpires in conjunction with her discovery of Constance’s motivations for the list of names. The question, though, is if Kitty is able to set aside her self-interests and focus on the needs of others. It is a question that Kitty herself struggles with answering.
While this is certainly a sweet book with a sweet message, its sweetness often comes across as tart and bitter, thanks to Kitty’s flinty personality. Every time she cries, we know it’s largely for herself, not for the people she has hurt. Yet – and this speaks to Ahern’s talent – we like her. We want her to succeed, not just professionally, but personally.
There are a few twists that we see coming, but they are somewhat beside the point. What we should focus on is our role within humanity. How connected are we to one another? How connected do we want to be? And what do we do with those connections? What do we owe them?
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Ahern’s message could be treacly or heavy handed in another writer’s grasp, but she unfolds it with respect and gentleness. Kitty Logan is one of us: flawed, self-involved, yet not unwilling to change.