In Markus Zusak’s I am the Messenger the reader is presented with the argument that we determine the course of our lives not only in grand decisions about where we live, or what our occupation might be, but also in the smallest of actions – buying icecream for a stranger or reading to a friend. While the novel seems intent on driving home this message of “little things matter,” it seems to me that in doing so it overwrites the stronger thematic messages of the narrative: that choices require intention and bravery; that close relationships demand not just rote participation, but sustained attention; and that presumed satisfaction with our lives does not, in fact, guarantee we are living with our fullest integrity, our greatest enthusiasm.
That the novel doesn’t itself seem clear about its argument matters less given that the arguments about choice come through all the same. And perhaps it’s just this reader that would rather attention be paid to the complexities of “will” and the limitations of our histories, than to platitudes like “little things matter.”
I’m again impressed with Zusak’s sincerity in arguing for the importance of stories in understanding our lives and our relationships with others. I was a little irritated with the heavy handed metafiction of the past few pages, if only because it appears there for the first time, and reads as if he couldn’t quite work out how to end the novel. *spoiler* I was also irritated with the neat ending between Ed and Audrey – far too pat for the complexity of his character development.
All that said, a hugely engaging plot, a great sense of humour, and an accessible thematic landscape good for young adults, but also for those in the grip of a twenty something (code: me) searching for what it might all mean and how I might go about living with intention and sincerity. A good read.