Within the span of two weeks, I’ve become a Markus Zusak fan for life. He is the only author that has succeeded in making me cry after reading not one, but two of his novels. And believe me, I don’t cry liberally. I may have been known to tear up once in a while, but otherwise, I am quite reserved thank you very much. Markus Zusak made me reach for a tissue and sniffle sniffle my way through The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger.
At one point, my brother turned around from his studies and said: “What the hell is the matter with you?”
In which I replied, “His words are so beautiful.”
My brother probably had no idea what I was talking about, but if you’re familiar with The Book Thief, you’ll understand. I picked up The Book Thief on a whim. I knew beforehand that it was the darling of book bloggers everywhere, but I was still reluctant to read it. Let’s just say I wasn’t in the mood for a WWII related story and a story narrated by Death was a real turn off. I am so glad I overcame my initial preconceptions and continued with The Book Thief because it is one of the best books I’ve ever read…in my life.
The narrator Death chronicles the adventures of Liesel Meminger. Liesel is orphaned at 9 and taken to live with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood in Nazi Germany. She develops a propensity toward stealing books and gradually transforms into the “book thief” in question. This is a story about the power of words.
I was surprised at how much I got into The Book Thief. I’m more inclined to shy away from novels written from a 3rd person omniscient point of view because I find it hard to relate to the characters. So I wasn’t too sure about Death as the narrator, but hey, let’s give it a chance. And you know what? It really worked. In fact, The Book Thief is a collection of unusual literary techniques (fragmented sentences, illustrations, a book within a book, etc…) that doesn’t seem to go together and may even distract the reader from the story, yet strangely, all Zusak’s pyrotechnics fit and what results is quite simply, fireworks. What do you get when fancy literary technique and a page-turning story meet? Critical acclaim and skyrocketing book sales.
All this is because Markus Zusak understands the human condition. Man is a contradiction: he is cruelty and compassion, fire and ice—even in his ugliest state, he is capable of beauty.
Markus Zusak is deep. Hands down, he must be the deepest author working today.
I discovered I Am the Messenger because it was advertised on the back page of The Book Thief.
The setting is modern day Australia. Ed Kennedy is a 19 year old cab driver sans ambition and a future. After foiling a bank-robbery, Ed receives an Ace of Diamonds in the mail. Three addresses and three times are written on the playing card. What exactly is he suppose to do with this cryptic information? When he investigates the three addresses, he discovers that each resident is a person or persons in need of help. He delivers the help; he is the messenger.
After Ed performs his duty, the Ace of Clubs arrives in the mail with three more messages and three more lives in distress…
Ed Kennedy is a superhero. Think about the superhero pattern. They protect the lives of the weak and keep watch over the lives of strangers while their personal lives fall apart. With the exception of Bruce Wayne, superheroes never get the girl, work a thankless job, and are never sure of themselves until they are hidden under their masks and doing what they do best. Otherwise, they are uncomfortable in the real world.
Ed Kennedy has no superpowers, but he reluctantly performs a superhero’s line of duty: saving people, changing lives, performing random acts of kindness under the cloak of anonymity. He is the only one who can do it; he’s the only one who cares.
I can confidently say that my life is richer and more textured after reading I Am the Messenger and The Book Thief. This is my highest recommendation and the reason why I am hopelessly devoted to Markus Zusak.