Review : I am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

iammessenger I picked this up because of the Author. I enjoyed his Book Thief immensely, so I wanted a repeat performance with a different story.

The story starts with a stick up in a bank, where four 19 year old friends happened to be – Ed Kennedy, Marv, Ritchie(Dave Sanchez) and Audrey. Ed ends up being a Hero at the end of this event as he ends up capturing the bank robber in a twist of events when the thief drops his gun and Ed takes charge of it. This event is the turning point of his aimless life. Soon after he gets a game card – The ace of diamonds with three addresses to deliver a message, or else. That was the start of his job as a Messenger. As he finishes the delivering the messages in each card, he gets another. A total of 12 messages to deliver and the gradual change that manifests in Ed as he delivers the messages is nice to watch. It felt like watching a child grow up, stand up for itself, move through life trusting itself more, being more of itself, gaining an insight that helps the child live a satisfying life. All within 360 odd pages of a book. That is a good deal.

Ed is the narrator of the story. He is an underachiever par excellence. He has a brother who does everything right and two sisters who have their own lives. All of them left the place they were born for better prospects except for Ed. He is in love with Audrey, who has friend zoned him. His friends Ritchie and Marv are very loyal and good to have as friends but there isn’t much growth between them or for themselves in their apathetic choice of lifestyles. Ritchie, is the typical, mask wearing person we all get to meet in our lives- the always jovial, nothing phases them, nothing bothers them, laid back outer vibe that hides a deep sense of loneliness and dissatisfaction with life. Marv, is the 9-5 kind of guy or at least that is what he shows himself to be- the go to work, save money, thrifty bordering on miserly, in love with his car. Ed and Audrey work as cab drivers for a taxi company with Ed having lied about his age to get the job. Ed’s father has passed and the only legacy that was left to Ed was his father’s old and stinky dog, The Doorman. His mother was a lady(not sure if I should call her that) with a foul mouth, who couldn’t finish any conversation with Ed, without punctuating it with profanity. She was deeply disappointed in Ed as he resembled his father and she felt he could do more. She was verbally very abusive to Ed, yet Ed had unfinished business with her. Or maybe the fact that she is his mother made it difficult for him to find his way out of that relationship.

Each of the messages that Ed is compelled to deliver changes the life of the receiver of the message, and the giver. Each of the messages helps Ed see that life is more about Love, about giving, about helping, doing what you can under the circumstances. Each time he delivers the message, he becomes less timid, more purposeful with his life, more thoughtful of what he is doing.

I was specially touched the way he handles each of the messages, even when the results weren’t as he wanted. There is Milla, the old lady who is still waiting for her beau. There is a beauty in the way he pretends to be Her long lost Love. Sophie, the young barefooted athlete, specially touching was the gift he gave her. The Family of Tatupu and Carusso, their gifts were so simple, yet so loving. As he delivers the messages, he gathers courage enough to confront his own demons.  His perception of his mother and the relationship he has with her, changes.

The story gives a message of hope to the reader, that if a person like Ed could Get Up when he was down, do the things that he did, that are way beyond what he could ever imagine, then maybe anyone could. You don’t have to be a special someone, a famous someone or a wealthy someone to connect with people, to reach out, do the needful, be there, send a message of love and of care, of understanding the human need to touch and be touched in our hearts.

I have to say, that I wouldn’t put this book in the hands of anyone who is younger than 16 years old. Maybe that is a little prudish of me but I really don’t think someone younger than that age really understands the nuances and implications involved in Adult relationships – sex, rape and foul language.

The premise of 19-20 year olds, wandering aimlessly in life is believable but the plot of how to get them to have a purpose in life was unbelievable. I liked the message he was trying to deliver though I felt the ending was a bit abrupt. Like as if, he was forced to end the book due to a deadline. It is light reading. Nothing too deep, A simple message with a beautiful story.

Overall I give a 4/5.


Books we love

We have shared books to read before we turn 10, 20, 30 and every decade that a human possible could think of being alive. And we talk about books that we liked, hated and loved. And then there were a few that we just could not stop talking about. Isn’t it only fair that we have a list of our own? The BE – must read list. A compilation of what we discussed over the past month and a half…starting with the latest.

1. Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik  


The very title of the book seems to be an invitation to enter a room filled to the brim with stories.. we are familiar with most of them, it could be even in a scattered kind of way, at some level, we all know the story of the Pandavas, our Gods and goddesses… If not grandparents and parents, we had our B R Chopra with his tales on national television and the the 90s

Read her full review here –

2. Night Film by  Marisha Pessl


It is about this journalist who is investigating the suicide of the daughter of a movie director. Now this director is famous in night film circles for his gory and chilling movies, never appeared in public and has is ultra clandestine life. I don’t want to go in more details. The book plays with your mind.

3. Where the Rain is Born: Writing About Kerala by Anita Nair


Reading this, I can feel the drops of that October drizzle, trickling down my cheek, like I am standing on the threshold of my own ancestral home in Kerala seeing the hues.

Reading is bliss. Heaven.

4. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul


Best opening line in a long time.
“The world is what it is. Men who are nothing…have no place in it”

5. How to be Good by Nick Hornby


How to Be Good is this very modern day English tale of a certain class of Brits- liberal, professional, upright citizens in an upper middle class locality. wife is a doctor, husband is a minor columnist cum author in the making. two small kids. The story starts with the wife announcing she wants a divorce. on the phone. while she has started her first extra marital dalliance And then the story goes into their lives the questions troubling them, and the underlying dynamics. simply, engagingly, direct dil se. A great example of how to tackle difficult toics in a simplisitc yet profound way.

6. Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler


a little older tale of an older couple. again, frayed, ageing lives, whats been the good, the not so good and then startling new twists. A more intense and involved language n style than Nick hornby, with a lot more range of coverage. and yet, within the realms of the simple tale told sweetly.

7. In the Light of What we Know by Zia Haider Rahman


PROFOUND. LITERARY. INTENSE. SUPER INTELLIGENT. All that needs to be said out loud. Because it is a book that is not subtle or gentle in the least. Grabs you from the start and makes you work hard. and takes you such a journey. One of the most brilliant books ever i have read . And incredibly, it is the first novel ever by the author. Full of the big themes of identity, class, love, loss, knowledge, knowing, memory and its shaping, and even global geo-politics.

8. Love among the Bookshelves by  Ruskin Bond


Absolutely loving this short and delightful read

9. Seahorse by Janice Pariat


Call it surreal, but many a times I felt like that I was being sat by Pariat under the shade of a massive tree and told the story. And it does not matter whether Nehemiah will find his lover at the end, you will want the book to never end or so I felt.

I became a fan of Pariat after reading her collection of short stories “Boats on Land”, which is her first book and “Seahorse” is her first novel. With “Seahorse” I have become her disciple now and will be waxing eloquence about her art with all the book lovers there.

Read his full review here –

10. The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family by Laura Schenone


I just started this book – just 3 pages into it, in fact – and it is delicious! I have a feeling I am going to like this book very, very much.

11. The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp by Marin Katusa


At the BE meet in Matteo last Dec, I managed only a short five minutes down time with the man from E&Y, in which I reiterated my two points: that a centennial power shift was happening from west to east [colloquially, from NATO to SCO], and that the manifestation of such a shift would be in the oil price change in 2015. Well guess what? Someone’s gone and written a book saying precisely this. Naturally, the author still views India as a penniless beggar [which in energy terms we are], but he also says we are building enough clout to engage in long-term discounted crude trade deals with Iran entirely to America’s chagrin…and India’s benefit [which I touched upon in Sept 2014, and is supported by MoPNG Pradhan’s visit to Islamabad a fortnight ago]. Also ties in well with the J-man’s fears of a new cold war brewing. And finally, here’s a tip: If I were in the E&Y M&A div, I’d look at North American service companies in the oil patch [currently facing mass extinction!]

12. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok


It is story of strength of women, the stuff we go through and still keep our humanity in tact. It is about love, love of family, love of mother, of lovers. I love a good love story and this has that typical in the teens love that has an innocence mixed with ambition for the future.

Read the full review here –

13. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte


A beautiful hard bound book complete with silk tassel bookmark and illustrations sat on the table and I must admit that it was love at first sight!!

The writing has me spell bound and I have to agree that there is an undeniable class and sophistication in the writing , that somehow seems to be lacking in many of the contemporary books that I have read.

Here is one of my favorite scenes so far in the book for its imagery .

14. Aarachar by  K R Meera


really good up and coming writer in Malayalam. Forgot who inBookends suggested this, it really is a good read.

15. Lucknow Boy: A Memoir by Vinod Mehta


Much more than I bargained for – Sharad Pawar and Dawood Ibrahim, Morarji Desai and CIA, steamy scene – writer Narasimha Rao and now a moderately drinking, non-veg eating, naughty Vajpayee

16. Editor Unplugged: Media, Magnates, Netas and Me by Vinod Mehta


He has written about almost everyone with at least one irreverent anecdote about each, but one was missing, that too very obviously. The Madam. And he finally agrees, that she could do no wrong. At least in his eyes. That was the Lucknow Boy in him talking. Now let me go see what the Editor has to say, Unplugged.
I love memoirs. Especially when they are as juicy

17. A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces: Extraordinary Short Stories from the 19th Century to the Present by  David Davidar


A surname caught my attention, in fact, his is the last story in the book. I had read an article by him sometime ago and loved it. Studied at Yale, where he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with BAs in History and Literature and at Columbia, where he was a FLAS fellow in Persian and South Asian studies. Loved his writing and tongue in cheek humour, surely a name to be reckoned with in future…a chip off the old bloke

18. The Passion of Artemisia: A Novel by Susan Vreeland


Ladies, and gentlemen who at least try to understand their ladies, if you have ever loved, been betrayed, longed for something with your whole heart and soul, have felt the sweet and aching tug of love for a mother figure, yearned for beauty, things that were beyond your reach, have admired women who were headstrong and passionate, this is one book that you absolutely MUST read. What a woman! And mind you, she is no mere figment of imagination..

19. And Then One Day: A Memoir by Naseeruddin Shah


Never had work consumed me so badly that for a few weeks I could not get past even two pages of a book. People who know me would understand when I say it was like I’d stopped breathing. Only a book and a man like this could redeem me. The smile is now back on my face and the breath is back to being yogic.
What a man, what a story!

20. To Kill a Mockingbird by  Harper Lee


I was 10 when I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I distinctly remember the stern look from the librarian at Corpus Christie High School in Kottayam as she admonished me for borrowing a “grown-up’s” book (yes, it wasn’t under the section for children’s books, I’d already finished the entire section).

I clasped the book tighter with my small fingers, didn’t budge from her desk… I sat through the night to finish the book. The next day I climbed back up on my favourite guava tree behind our dormitory & spent my afternoon reading it again.

Of course I got detention for missing my dance class & PT, but my head was filled with the agony, emotions, wit & beauty of Harper Lee’s tale. Nothing else mattered.

Can’t wait to read the sequel 30 years later.

Devdutt Pattnaik’s Shikhandi and Other Tales they don’t tell you (2014)

shikhandi & other tales

It is funny how the title can itself lead to so many readings of what the book entails…”Other Tales they don’t tell us…”

The stories in the book retold by Devdutt seem to be stories that were always there. But at least the title seems to tell the readers that they were somehow not actively passed on. it is as if there was some restraining order on these stories.. stories withdrawn from the larger public for some reason, and these reasons make them all the more mysterious and therefore, the demand to read 🙂 Even though the book is not part of the genre of mystery and thriller, the title kind of gives it that edge of mmm what is it, if not a whodunit 😛

Therefore, I feel the title invites the readers to explore the seemingly unexplored, of the suppressed, not talked about.. in addition to think about how certain stories are there and some are not.. it is about what trickles down as history, stories, what all gets to be talked about and circulated….

Writing about myths has its good and bad.. and the good is, that it is in the realm of the familiar.. Devdutt need not explain a lot to his readers, if they are Indians or well read on Hindu myths.. most of us would have heard these stories over and over again from some source if we live or have lived in India… it is difficult not to come by or ignore them.. they are so in the face every where.

the bad is, exactly the same familiar, which makes it difficult to make the stories interesting ..One of the ways he works this out is by giving additional background and context. The very act of pooling together stories from different mythological sources on a given theme , here the third gender, makes it a new collection.. we may have come across these stories, but reading so many of them together in this given context gives it a perspective..

The very title of the book seems to be an invitation to enter a room filled to the brim with stories.. we are familiar with most of them, it could be even in a scattered kind of way, at some level, we all know the story of the Pandavas, our Gods and goddesses… If not grandparents and parents, we had our B R Chopra with his tales on national television and the the 90s

I think it is because of this Mahabharata, this programme used to be aired on Sundays, that I can only think of Mukhesh Khanna as anyone but Bhishma. and that too, the image of him in his silver coloured clothes on the bed of arrows. It is curious that I don’t remember him at first as his later avatar of the first televised Indian superhero, Shaktimaan. If it is a coincidence, the image I have of Khanna- Bhisma is brought about in the tale by none other than Shikhandi..

“Drupada was happy to finally get a son, but then, to his dismay, Shikhandi in a rather cavalier moment placed around his neck Amba’s garland of ever-fresh lotus flower that for years had been hanging on a pillar of his palace. ‘He will kill Bhisma,’ moaned Drupada, ‘But I need a son who will kill Drona.”(Devdutt Pattnaik, Shikhandi & Other Tales They Don’t Tell You, pg 43)

The title of the book says, “Shikhandi and other tales they don’t tell you” .. and quite aptly, we all seem to know about Shikhandi.. Devdutt begins his set with the story of Shikandi..and then he goes on the tell us other tales of transformation and births.

The book was recommended to me by Uma.. in passing, during our conversations in the Jsquad 🙂

Cross posted as part of Teaser Tuesdays on pins & ashes