Book Review - I am the Messenger (Markus Zusak)


I am the Messenger — Markus Zusak

Review by Andrew Roberts

“The gunman is useless.” are the first words of this novel by Markus Zusak.  Ed Kennedy is an insignificant, boring person who drives taxis for a living and plays cards with his friends, Marv, Ritchie, and Audrey, every single night.  His siblings have all gone away to college, but Ed does not think about his life goals, but just lets it pass by like a breeze.  That is, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.  To be fair, he does not stop it in spectacular fashion: he starts arguing with Marv about Marv’s car (an old relic that is not worth anything) on the floor of the bank.  The burglar hears them and threatens to shoot, but Ed and Marv just do not care.  They infuriate the burglar to the point where he demands Marv’s car keys and runs out the door to make his getaway, leaving the gun on the floor of the bank.  He tries to make his getaway, but there is one issue: the car will not start.  Ed, Marv, Ritchie, and Audrey stand inside the bank, laughing, until (for some reason) Ed walks confidently out, picks up the gun, and shoots out the window of the car (with Marv wailing in the background) presumably injuring the burglar. Soon he is on the front page of every newspaper, but Ed does not enjoy it.  His fame slowly passes, and he goes on with his monotonous, everyday life.  One day, an envelope arrives on his doorstep, empty but for a lone Ace of Diamonds, listing three addresses and three times.  When Ed realizes that these addresses are his mission, the messages he has to send, his life is never the same.  

The book is divided into five sections: one for each ace (diamonds, clubs, spades, and hearts, respectively) and one joker.  Each ace has three messages, though these messages are written in different ways.  One ace has them carved in stone, while another makes Ed search for addresses in books.  The last card is the most important: the joker is the message when all is revealed and (thought I will not spoil it for you) it is very shocking.  With each message, Zusak sharpens the reader’s perspective of his main point: even the most insignificant person can make the world a better place.  The tasks Ed must do are not overly difficult or complicated, things that require nerves and things one would not do without being told,and things that change lives drastically.  As Ed sends these messages, he becomes more and more confident in himself, increasing his self-worth and making his life more purposed, which is evident in the writing.  The messages become much more personal in nature near the end, as Ed changes not only the lives of the strangers, but changes his life for the better.  He performs miracles, making lives that much better that much more purposeful. The story encourages the reader as the book goes on, with Zusak portraying Ed’s insignificance (at first) and later on his importance, showing the reader that anyone can do anything; even though someone may be the most dull soul one will ever meet, that person is still capable of miracles.  

This one by far one of the best books I have ever read.  I tend to like fictional stories that deal with important life questions, books that tend to be philosophical in nature.  This book definitely fits that category, as Ed goes on a journey of discovering meaning in his monotonous life.  Zusak does an amazing job of making the reader feel with Ed as he continues on his journey.  I have but one complaint: the ending is not explained well at all and is underwhelming.  When I came to the end, expecting a big reveal, I was disappointed, and left the book feeling so.  I could not put this book down, and I loved it.  I would recommend it to almost anyone.  People that are not into stories that make you think (I like to call them philosophical tales) might not like this as much as I did, but will enjoy it nevertheless.  You will not regret reading this book.

I am the Messenger is Zusak’s fifth book; his most famous work being the book The Book Thief which won several awards and is a motion picture of the same title.  He primarily writes books for young adults and resides in Australia.  

I am the Messenger - Markus Zusak

Knopf - 2002


357 Pages

For the creative portion of this project, I chose to do an alternate book cover for this book.  It is shown below.  In the cover, I show all of the messages Ed must send: the four aces and joker.

Book Cover

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