Monday, December 14, 2015

I Am the Messenger

protect the diamonds+survive the clubs+dig deep through the spades+feel the hearts

When I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak a few years ago, it immediately found a comfy spot in my favorites list. So I when I picked up I Am the Messenger by Zusak, I was anxious to dive in, yet I was leery. Could the story and prose possibly compare? I had my doubts. The book lie dormant for many months. And the time I wasted!

I think most of us have a soft spot for the underdog, drifter guy who, of course, is funny, clever and sweet. Well, at least we women do. This novel's protagonist, Ed Kennedy, is a laid-back cab driver who somehow botches a bank robbery. The event sets Ed off on a series of strange and mysterious missions within his community.

Ed's life pulses with routine and a small sphere of card-playing friends: Marv, Ritchie, Audrey (whom he loves), and The Doorman his dog(whom he also loves). The novel captures Ed's reluctance to carry out these "missions." But he does. He must. It's as if his life depends on it. Maybe it does! The missions aren't clearly defined; each assignment is a puzzle for Ed to solve. (He is clever, even if not terribly ambitious.) One of the biggest puzzles is to determine who is setting the missions in motion. And it's kind of a shocker. I didn't guess. And I really thought I had.

The plot is engaging–a page turner for sure. But like all good books, the character transformation is what makes this story a charmer. One of the most profound elements of the story is how Ed deals with the death of his father. His mother is nothing short of a bitch ("Believe it or not, it takes a lot of love to hate you like this."), which makes his loneliness more intense. But it's through Ed's new experiences he begins to make sense of himself and these feelings of loss and loneliness.

If only he could get the the girl...

I adore the punchiness of Ed's narrative. How couldn't Ed get the girl! Well, it's complicated. Audrey's got issues. At one point, after being rejected by her, he says,

"You can kill a man with those words. No gun. No bullet. Just words and a girl."

Just words. Powerful stuff. Lots of great words in this book. So read it already.

One quick note before signing off on this glowing review: I can find few similarities between this book and The Book Thief, except for perhaps the poignancy. So whether you liked The Book Thief or not, I'd give I Am the Messenger a read. It's a great tale, especially if you're into poignancy.

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