Sometimes I walk to that field and sink to my knees. I hear my heart beating, but I don’t want to. I hate my heartbeat. It’s too loud in that field. It falls down. Right out of me. But then it just gets back up again.
Applause for Markus Zusak, for he has stunned me dumb and wordless not once but twice. This does not happen too often, because whatever I think can usually find its way out of my mouth in coherence. The Book Thief ripped my tongue off and all I felt capable of doing was making wounded animal noises. That book is a story which holds precious characters who made my I like you full-bloom into I love you, I love you, I love you. It was an experience, and an emotional one that refuses to stop tugging at my itty heart. Given that Zusak’s 2006 best-seller is the only familiarity I had with his work, I felt expectant of few things:
1. This is going to be good.
2. The adorable Zusak style (in which sentences nail an idea so perfectly that my emotional state is flipped upside down and jerked all around).
3. I will enjoy this.
How much I’d enjoy this is what I questioned, because certainly nothing can do for me what The Book Thief does. To an extent, I think that book will always be my one forever Zusak-love, no matter how fond I am of another Zusak book. What I discovered in I am the Messenger goes beyond enjoyment. I found an uplifting story that inspires and instills confidence in humanity.
Ed Kennedy, like many people I know, feels insignificant compared to the vastness of this planet and the accomplishments of other people. He likes to think he has and probably never will make an impact, because he’s Ed: a 19 year old never-has-been who lets his life trickle by on cab driving and routine card games.
Constantly, I’m asking myself, Well, Ed—what have you really achieved in your nineteen years? The answer’s simple.
But all of this soon changes, because Ed is also a man with a big, conflicted heart that pushes him to do a lot of good — even when he may not intend to. By accident, Ed stops a “useless gunman” from making a cash-loaded getaway. In doing so, he unknowingly sets his own future to collide into and twist around the lives of others.
It is after the bank robber incident, after Ed is publicly declared a “hero” by newspapers, when he receives his first mystery card: the ace of diamonds. On it are written three addresses where he must deliver a different message to each, and some messages are not easily ascertained nor are they easily delivered. Some of these messages are difficult to bear, let alone communicate to the recipient. Others, however, prove less difficult, but all messages are equal cheer-rousers that show how a simple act can make the grandest mark. This one card is just a pre-cursor highlighting what’s to come, but it’s how Ed plants himself into other people’s lives and what he must do to help them that I find encouraging.
I crunch through my cone and we stand up. I realize how stiff and sore I am from two nights ago at the Cathedral. Attempted murder will do that to you.
Ed aside, Zusak has the ability to write his characters with a heart inserted into each one. They are palpable and real in every sense, because I can believe these are genuine people who undergo problems that we all stand a chance to experience. If just to add, it is also how these characters handle their problems and the circumstances of their situations. In I am the Messenger, this also extends into how deeply Ed sticks his head into another person’s life in order to understand and help – and it’s not only strangers Ed must get to know. He also must face his friends, which begs the question: how well do I know the people around me?
I want to talk to him.
I want to ask him about that girl and if he loved her and still misses her.
Nothing, however, exits my mouth. How well do we really let ourselves know each other?
Reading this book, I scrutinized the way I interact with strangers as well as people I know. The do-good aspect largely sits at the center of why I relish this story, because a number of bad events drop like bombs and, when pushed down far enough, it happens: people lose faith in people and in our ability to pay it forward. Not because we expect the same in return, but because it’s the ‘right thing’ to do.
If there is one thing I found unsatisfactory about I am the Messenger, it is the one thing I am probably the pickiest with in all books: the conclusion. Those who have read this book might agree that perhaps it’s what needed to occur for one of the characters to heal. Audrey needed to allow herself to love and to be loved, and she does. Still, there is a nagging voice in my head that asks, “And how many guys ‘get the girl’?” I think it’s easy to foresee and I enjoy pondering the many possible alternatives instead.
Moving this glitch to the side, I am the Messenger sat me at the protagonist’s side as his life takes an unsuspected turn. Ed journeys down a foreign road that has its bumps and it bruises him along the way. In the end, what matters is what his journey amounts to. Ed touches the lives of complete strangers and those of his friends, all the while taking an introspective exploration of himself.
At the start, Ed Kennedy is an average guy who blends into the background. He’s the guy who becomes one more face you’re prone to forget, but by the journey’s end, Ed is a guy you remember. Ed grows, and as he does so, he inspired a little growth of my own.
If a guy like you can stand up and do what you did, then maybe everyone can. Maybe everyone can live beyond what they’re capable of.
*Special thank you to Savindi from The Streetlight Reader, who sent this as a Christmas gift. It made a wonderful present for the holidays!