Mari Jojie Lets Second Chances At Love Unfold In Debut Book ‘A Hundred Silent Ways’
There is an underlying somberness that Jojie consistently parades in the book, and it haunts the reader enough to embrace it fully
In her note to select readers, she writes a disclaimer: “If this book were to have a song, it would have an absolutely sad tone.” Aside from finally finding someone else who could hear music in words, it is about the best way to describe her debut novel A Hundred Silent Ways.
The book illustrates two people who are pulled together by their subconscious wish to be accompanied, a premise that Jojie first pitched in the earlier days. “I wrote the first draft with a working title Two Less Lonely People, wherein I would end the story with two less lonely people.”
However, the word “lonely” in itself was too pessimistic a word, too “downcast a version of happily ever after,” and so that was how the title came to be. But despite the change, it did not take away the fact that the book’s tone was in fact like its premise’s promise: melancholy, even until the end.
I could liken such a tone to a snippet from Pablo Neruda’s Tonight I Write The Saddest Lines, where he shares, “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” There is an underlying somberness that Jojie consistently parades in the book, and it haunts the reader enough to embrace it fully. I myself took a couple of days to read it, mainly because absorbing such melancholy entails a different kind of energy—beautiful, but weighted.
Jojie writes about Kate Pineda-McDowell, an on-the-brink divorcee who meets Liam Walker, a former soldier who loses his hearing during the war. But such a coincidental meeting is actually part and parcel of a bigger destiny, a kind of fate that had them entwined a long time ago. When asked what inspired her to write about this, she shares her thesis in return.
“Everything happens in its own time. Whenever I pass by a car, I always play back the situation in my head and reflect on what could have been the thing that stalled and potentially saved me from being part of that accident. My favorite mind game is what-could-have-been, a game I used to play when I was young and desperate for love myself. I hardly play this game now, but it didn’t stop me from working around this supposition that eventually all things fall into place.”
She drives this point further with her chapter titles. “The title ‘Not if but when’ supports the credence to believe in destiny so I made sure to start the chapter titles with the word ‘when’ to drive the point home. I truly believe that most of the occurrences in our lives are predestined. It’s not if you let it happen, but just a matter of time when you let it happen. There’s a stark difference.”
Aside from the seamless and introspective way Jojie takes the reader through both the pain and possibilities, silence is a big subject that she yearns to talk about more.
She credits her inspiration to certain communication struggles. “I hold off on my opinion until I am certain that it’s the right thing to say,” before admitting that she too can be tactless. She shares that A Hundred Silent Ways is an illustration of communication breaking down in several aspects, and the vulnerabilities that come with it. Jojie shares that even Kate, who projects a damsel-in-distress trope, endures in the silence of her pain.
“There are silts of myself and my mother in Kate’s mom,” Jojie admits. “The female characters in my book are definitely a cross-pollination of the women in my life. It may not be the exact story; the grief and the heartaches are in themselves variable, but their fortitude resonates with what I’ve witnessed in real life.”
But is silence a form of endurance? Jojie ponders on the question. “Endurance is such a tricky word. Initially, I associated the word with distress or suffering, but then it immediately transports me to the words survival and resilience. There’s some advantages to being impassive. And it takes courage to block off all the outside noise to listen to our inner quiet; we don’t have to be non-hearing to utilize the power of silence.”
Jojie ends the conversation with a teaser of a second manuscript she collaborated with two friends, and some advice. First, she wishes to impart some wise words to Diday, Kate’s stepmother. “Start chopping those onions properly. Cutting horizontally towards your fingers is precarious. Trim the ends of the onion but don’t waste a good portion.”
Second, she imparts this to us: “Find it in your heart to ask for forgiveness.”
Take those words how you will, but pick up the book first.