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Book Worm: 'I Am the Messenger' delivers powerful lesson about humanity

By Kathleen Duncan
Sept. 25, 2013 at 4:25 a.m.


Run of the mill, average, ordinary, uninspiring Ed Kennedy is a 19-year-old cab driver. He has no plans for his life, no career, no higher education. He has a few friends, a girl who won't love him back, a card game a couple nights a week and a mother who likes to cuss at him. Oh, and The Doorman, his huge, stinky, coffee-drinking dog whom he adores with unadulterated affection. That's pretty much it. His whole life.

Until the day he stops a robbery without really trying to. After that day, everything changes because after that day, the first card arrives in the mail.

The Ace of Diamonds has three addresses and times scribbled on it. No instructions. No explanation. When Ed visits each place at the allotted time, he finds people in need of something. He waits, he watches, and he finds a way to give them what they need. Ed becomes the messenger.

Sometimes, he delivers love or kindness or inspiration. Sometimes, it's fear or retribution. But each message is a sorely needed addition to that person's life - to help them move on, open up, find happiness or face themselves.

"I Am the Messenger" by Markus Zusak explores the beauty of the average human being. It's not about someone making a lot of money, becoming famous or achieving their wildest dreams. It's just about being a person.

Ed Kennedy knows he isn't a superhero or a saint; he says, "I'm just another stupid human." But maybe, that's all you have to be because the smallest gestures can affect someone's life.

Though the formula for the plot could be considered typical, Zusak elevates it with his writing. His characters are heartfelt, and his prose is eloquent. Each person Ed encounters changes him. Those moments stick with Ed - and with us - long after he's done with their message.

Ed Kennedy discovers that the greatest ability we have inside us is just the ability to help each other - to care, to pay attention, to love, to go out of our way to show a little kindness, if only to help someone realize they aren't completely alone in the world.

And who knows; if run-of-the-mill, average, ordinary, uninspiring Ed Kennedy is capable of it, then maybe we all are.

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