After I finished reading The Book Thief by the Australian novelist Markus Zusak in the bathtub one cold winter afternoon, I lay there and absorbed the depth of his story as the water got colder and colder. My peepers were a’leakin and I was in awe of the perfection of the whole book.
I ordered I Am The Messenger and Getting The Girl from Amazon post haste. I loved Getting The Girl and sent it as a gift to my friend Zavier whom I thought might love it too. I was loathe to start I Am The Messenger after I read the first twenty-three pages aloud to my husband one night after dinner for the same reason I own but have not read You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers. It takes years for an author to lovingly craft a book length story, and mere hours for me to devour it. I try to extend my pleasure with anticipation.
Sitting at my kitchen table with a glass of wine, I wandered along with Ed Kennedy, an underage taxi driver and his argumentative friend Marv as they get drawn into a hilariously snarky quarrel about the use and abuse of Marv’s ancient blue Falcon. The car in question is illegally parked outside the same bank where Ed and Marv, and Ed’s best friend (with whom he is hopelessly in love) Audrey are lying face down on the floor. The robber is pretty small time: “useless” is, I believe the word that Ed uses in the first sentence, and that turns out to be his doom.
Ed Kennedy, no matter what he thinks of himself, is orders of magnitude more useful than than this bank robber. The author spends the rest of this charming book proving that to both the reader and to Ed himself.
Some days later, an envelope containing three addresses written on the back of a playing card is delivered. No instructions. Just three addresses and the Ace of Diamonds. What would you do if this happened to you? Right-oh, that’s what Ed did too. He didn’t sleep at all that night, and after a lot of thinking about it no one he knew seemed a likely suspect. In the morning he got up and went out on foot with The Doorman and a street map to find the addresses on the card.
Favorite Character: The Doorman What’s not to love about a bleary-eyed, coffee drinking, ice cream begging, hound dog well and comfortably settled into his retirement? They have a special charm that you can smell a mile away, and if you have ever lived with such a creature yourself, you will love The Doorman too.
I’ll leave the rest of the copies on the shelf at your local book seller just in case you want one too. Suffice it to say that by the end of the story, Ed is carrying four aces and plenty to think about.
I loved the pure Ed-ness of this sentence. He is a scrappy problem-solver and he is stubborn. Two admirable qualities in a man.
I’ll give you ten bucks for the dog and the card.
Favorite Assignment: The Barefoot Girl This is only the second of Ed’s twelve assignments, but it is the one where I began to see the outlines of The Real Ed. The one even he doesn’t know exists.
As for the ending? At first, I found it satisfying if a bit fuzzy. After I thought about it awhile though, I began to see Ed Kennedy and his assignments as forerunner. I thought it was the perfect ending for the book an author might write, before he settles in to write a story as full of grace as The Book Thief. There, I imagine Ed Kennedy was working on his thirteenth assignment; encouraging Markus Zusak from behind the scenes.
All in all - two thumbs up, five stars and I’ll read it again someday.