The Messenger – Markus Zusak

The Messenger – Markus Zusak

Title: The Messenger
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication Date: 10th January 2002
Pages: 386
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Ed Kennedy – cab-driving prodigy, pathetic card player, useless at sex – shares coffee with his dog and is in nervous-love with Audrey. His life is one of suburban routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace turns up and Ed becomes the messenger.

PROTECT THE DIAMONDS
SURVIVE THE CLUBS
DIG DEEP THROUGH THE SPADES
FEEL THE HEARTS

Chosen to care, he travels through town, helping and hurting, until only one question remains. Where are the messages coming from?

I tried to read this book while I was in early high school, after falling completely in love with Zusak’s The Book Thief, but I never finished it. I just wasn’t interested at that point in my life. Here we are, ten years later, and my little sister has told me that I should give it another go. And she was so very right – I loved it this time around! I devoured the 386 pages in my daily commute!

This is an incredibly uplifting story about human nature and how the smallest actions can change people’s lives. After preventing a bank robber’s getaway, Ed begins to receive playing cards in the mail. The first has three addresses written on it. He visits each and discovers a woman who is raped by her husband each night, a lonely old lady and a beautiful teenage girl who runs barefoot every morning. He makes it his task to improve these people’s lives, and the lives of others listed on subsequent cards, and in doing so he improves his own life and becomes a better person.

Zusak has once again encapsulated the simple beauty of human goodness and has done a marvellous job. Had it not been for a few minor problems listed below, I would have given this book a 5/5 rating for its pure beauty and Zusak’s fascinating observations.

I liked that the town in which Ed lived wasn’t mentioned – it highlighted that anyone, anywhere could make the simple differences to others that Ed achieves. However, at one point in the book, Ed was mentioned as dropping someone near Sydney – I just felt that the mention of a specific area was out of place and destroyed the sense that Ed could literally be anyone, anywhere in the world.

I also disliked the ending – don’t read on if you want to avoid a minor spoiler! The stranger who has been delivering the cards is never revealed – there is a sense that it is Zusak himself – he hands Ed a folder detailing every thought process and act he undertook along his journey. It just didn’t mesh well with the rest of the story, and I was disappointed that he tried to make it surreal – the story was great as straight fiction! Ed already doubted himself – what was the point in increasing that doubt in the character and in the reader?

However, overall the book left a profound impact on me, emphasising in beautifully written form that simple actions have profound impacts on the people around us and the importance of remembering people other than ourselves. I am so very glad that I persevered this time around. Despite its incredible differences from The Book Thief, which I absolutely adored, The Messenger is another divine example of Zusak’s ability.

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