Book Review: I Am The Messegener by Markus Zusak (4/5). I still don’t know how this ended.

3 Jun

I won’t lie: I read this book because I loved The Book Thief. I don’t think that’s really a bad thing, but these titles were so different that it’s hard to compare them at all. I liked it, but not in the same way I liked The Book Thief. It was a different premise. Unusual. Enjoyable.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Ed is no one special. He lives in a run-down shack with his dog and drives a taxi even though he’s too young to do so. He’s got his friends: Marv and Richie and the beautiful yet untouchable Audrey. So why is Ed receiving messages? Who decided that Ed should be the messenger? They come written on aces and Ed suspects it’s his friends whom he plays cards with. No such luck. The aces guide him to people who need his help. Sometimes it’s something little like an ice cream cone. Sometimes it’s something big, like letting himself be beaten up. Whatever it is, Ed has to deliver his message until there are no more names on his lists.

I liked the originality of this story; it came as something very fresh and new. It’s nice to read a book about people helping each other instead of tearing each other down. I have to say, the ending was really confusing for me. I had to search Google to find out what had happened (and so you know, I am going to discuss it. You have been warned). I like that Zusak inserted himself into the story to an extent. But I was also hoping that he would have found an awesome way to bring everything full circle and felt a little cheated that he didn’t. The ending confused me so much at first that I walked away from it upset instead of inspired. I wish he’d done something more with it.

The characters came alive for me in the last section in particular. The people Ed had to help along the way weren’t very well-developed and didn’t need to be, but I was curious to see what would happen with Ed’s close friends. I loved Marv’s story and thought it explained his character very well. Zusak did a wonderful job at dropping hints to Marv’s secret during the whole story and tying them together at the end. I wasn’t as big of a fan of Audrey’s story, but I loved her character. I see girls like her far too often and I wish they could find the respect for themselves that they deserve.

The Doorman was my favorite character because of the way Zusak wrote him. I liked that he was personified in the way pet-owners come to think of their pets. I’m convince of my turtle’s personality and I can only imagine what dog owners imagine for their dogs. I listened to the audio version of this book and the vocal performer did a great job with the Doorman’s voice.

Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak

I could relate to Ed’s search for a purpose in life and I think many readers can. Being recently out of college, newly married, and an aspiring writer, there’s a lot in my life that’s up to chance and waiting to see what comes next at this point. It was refreshing to see a character who felt the same way and was contented to wait for life to come to him instead of the other way around.

When I decided to switch industries, I felt a lot like Ed did in the story. I had people around me that were supportive, but I felt like I was on my own to find something that would change me into a happier person. Ed’s journey to deliver the messages reminded me of this time of my life.

I loved the part of the book when Ed and his friends helped Father O’Riley bring people into his church. I’m Catholic myself and have been to shrinking parishes and they always make me sad. Frequently, it has nothing to do with the priest, as was the case in this vignette. It seems to me that many Americans (and evidently Australians s well) have lost their desire to have a faith-based community. There were a few details about Catholic mass and culture that I think Zusak missed, but it was overall a very realistic depiction of the current problems the Catholic church is facing. I loved that Ed was able to help.

The ending has to be my least favorite part. As I said before, it felt cheap to me and like Zusak didn’t have a good way to wrap up the awesome story he wove together. I get that he wanted to talk about existentialism, but it was kind of a let down as the reader to know the whole thing is the author’s manipulation of a character’s feelings. If we’re all players in some big author’s game, when do we get the message that our ability to control our own futures is out of our hands? Will God show up on my doorstep the way Zusak showed up on Ed’s? Probably not, so why is Ed so lucky?

Because I don’t want to get into existentialism, I’m going to talk about the theme of love. The most difficult relationship for me to process was the one between Ed and his mother. It struck too close to home with a good friend and his mother. My friend’s mother never seems to be happy with him, no matter what he does, much like Mrs. Kennedy. I know that my friend’s mom loves him, but it’s really hard to see. I wish my friend’s mom would say to him what Mrs. Kennedy said to Ed, “It takes a lot of love to hate you like this.”

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not sure about this one. Zusak tries to do something different with the narrator, much like he does with The Book Thief, but I’m not sure how well it paid off this time. Inserting himself into the story is very original and was quite the plot twist, but it wasn’t the same as using Death as a narrator. It didn’t have the same umph. I think as writers we do need to test the boundaries of conventional writing and Zusak is a great example of this. This book is wonderful, but a good note that you won’t always hit a home-run with all of your readers.

Overall, very enjoyable and original, though I wasn’t a fan of the ending. Four out of five stars.

This book fulfills Foreign Country: Australia for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

Like this review? Let me know on Goodreads.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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4 Responses to “Book Review: I Am The Messegener by Markus Zusak (4/5). I still don’t know how this ended.”

  1. amandasnoseinabook June 3, 2014 at 3:38 PM #

    What a great review. I felt that the ending of I Am The Messenger was lacking as well. The “oomph” just wasn’t there for me, but it was throughout the rest of the story. I found Ed’s story to be very inspirational, and I loved him as a character (he had a great sense of humor).
    The story of each person he helped was so touching and I loved how he learned so much from each one of them about how to live and be a better person overall.

    I wish Zusak had more books published. I would read them in a heart-beat.

    Like

    • Sam June 3, 2014 at 5:35 PM #

      I really liked Ed as well. He was a good ‘every man’ narrator. I had favorite sub-stories and I loved how they played into the overall arc. I’m glad you liked the book as well. 🙂

      Like

  2. Karissa June 4, 2014 at 1:14 AM #

    Great review! I too read this one because I liked The Book Thief so much but they’re such different books. I was impressed with the boldness of the ending but I did feel a little ripped-off. And I love that line – “It takes a lot of love to hate you like this.” That one sentence changed my view on that whole relationship.

    Like

    • Sam June 4, 2014 at 6:17 AM #

      I felt that the ending didn’t fit with how well crafted the rest of the book was. I don’t feel it’s a good representation of Zusak’s skill as a writer and that’s part of why I didn’t like it. I wish the mother had been redeemed slightly more, but I still really enjoyed that line.
      Happy reading!!

      Like

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