A couple of months ago I walked in the bookstore adjacent to my school in order to whale away the leisure half an hour I had till my class began. As I was roaming the isles of piled up books and tracing their spines with a finger, my gaze fell upon the name of Markus Zusak on a quaint cover and obstinately refused to be extricated. I am not a diehard fan of Markus Zusak – perhaps I would have turned out one if I had managed just for once to reach the “The End” of “The Book Thief” instead of going halfway four times.
Nevertheless, when I laid my eyes upon “I Am the Messenger” I was, to put it mildly, intrigued since I have had a sip of his enticing writing style. It invades every fiber of your soul and entangles you completely in the story. Markus Zusak’s rendition takes my breath away. It leaves me speechless. So instead of trying to describe the sublimity of his language, using my own awkward words, I am going to show you.
“The violence interferes. It sticks its fingers into everything and tears it open. It all comes apart and I loathe myself for waiting this long to end it. I despise myself for waiting this long to end it. I despise myself for taking the easy options night after night. A hatred is wound up and let go in me. It hacks at my spirit and brings it to its knees, next to me. It coughs and suffocates as my own hatred for myself becomes overwhelming.”
I think that elucidated why I reluctantly put the book down and headed for school and why I couldn’t dissemble my unbridled enthusiasm while I was reading. I was laughing my cheeks off in a crowded bookstore and people were throwing suspicious glances at me but I couldn’t care less. By the time I finished the first chapter my mind was conquered by a single thought: “I have to read this book. I have to learn why Ed Kennedy is desperately helpless in sex.”
Ed Kennedy is an underage cab-driver, which by the way is illegal, but he’s doing an excellent job concealing it. He has only 3 friends with whom he plays cards frequently. He reads a lot. He lives alone in a filthy shack with a caffeine-addicted seventeen-year-old dog. He’s haplessly in love with his best friend whose supreme credos are indifference and detachment. He has nothing to anticipate except the next card-game. “It makes me think of my life, my nonexistent accomplishments and my overall abilities in incompetence.” In other words, he’s an underdog and is well-aware of it.
Until one day he impedes a bank robbery.
And becomes the town’s hero, praised, loved and revered by grateful local people of all ages.
No. I am kidding you.
All he gets is a miserable article in the newspaper. Well, that and a playing card in his mailbox. This is a turning point in both Ed’s life and the book which as you’ll see in the end are intricately intertwined. The card is succinct. Only three addresses and times are jotted down. As Ed gets round to visiting them, he faces iniquity, solitude and docility. It takes him a long while but eventually he comes to grips with the fact that he’s supposed to right the wrongs.
Ace of Diamonds.
Ace of Clubs.
Ace of Hearts.
Ace of Spades.
“It’s like I’ve been chosen. But chosen for what? I ask. The answer is quite simple:
Ed Kennedy’s supposed to be the one human being in the commodious apathetic world who cares – cares about some strangers as much as he cares about his three messed-up friends and himself. But copious care is not enough. . Regret wouldn’t take back the sardonic words. Apologies wouldn’t amend the broken hearts. No feelings wage change but sometimes a diminutive gesture could cause an upheaval. “I guess it’s true – big things are often just small things that are noticed”.
The challenge facing Ed, though, is to fathom out what it is that the next address calls for: Christmas lights, an empty shoebox, an ice cream or just a hand to hold? True care should provoke thoughts but unfortunately we’re not hard-wired to think. “That’ll kill you,” Marv warns. You’re better off not thinking at all.” However, only through his considerate deeds could Ed Kennedy spread around joy.
Thus a recondite question arises. “How well do we really let ourselves know each other?” The horrendous answer is one of the few well-founded reasons I am never ever putting on a white gown. Seldom do we realize that when we make acquaintance with somebody they’re already a whole developed person, who has worked their way up to becoming who they are today. New Year’s Resolutions, countless goal and ultimatums, hardships and mishap, or just good old experience have propelled them to alter and adapt. We have the propensity, though, to regard our friends as who we deem them to be, not who they really are, especially old friends. We never grant them the permission to improve or deteriorate. We fix them with a stamp which they could never outgrow and as time goes by, we end up estranged from each other, which is queer for we’ve never really known each other to begin with. So when they need a shoulder to cry on, or a sympathetic ear to hear them out – we could provide nothing more but hollow support. Markus Zusak has illustrated this paradox outstandingly in “I Am the Messenger”. He has emphasized the difference in the way one approaches strangers and one approaches one’s friends.
“It’s funny how when you watch people from a long distance, it all seems voiceless. It’s like watching a silent movie. You guess what people say. You watch their mouths move and imagine the sounds of their feet hitting the ground. You wonder what they’re talking and, ever more so, what they might be thinking.” You wonder who they are for real and more often than not your guess is auspicious for you bear no prejudices and are quite open-minded.
The cards in Ed’s mailbox enchanted me as well. As you’re yet to notice, I’m obsessed with the meaning of life. That’s probably why I can find it covered in every book I pick up. After all books belong to their readers and the way you understand them speaks only about your persona, right? What fascinates me most about the enigma of life is whether we all contribute to the universe uniquely and individually or as a whole – as the race of human beings; whether your purpose on Earth has been predetermined or it is constructed as you advance in life based on the decisions you make and the adjustments you undergo. Markus Zusak provides us with astounding answer to each question as the story unravels.
“We all have our duties here. We all suffer. We all endure our setbacks for the greater good of mankind.”
That’s why I loved the ending. Throughout the whole book a single question mark is flustering us. Why is all this happening to an imbecile taxi driver? What’s the meaning of it? What’s its purpose? I believe we get the most satisfactory, unexpected and unprecedented explanation. It’s undoubtedly worth reading all 371 pages to figure it out.
“Beginnings and endings merge and bend.” and when they do the message is deciphered.
*All cited quotes are taken out of “I Am the Messenger”