I Am The Messenger Summary

Markus Zusak

I Am The Messenger

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

I Am The Messenger Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak.

Australian writer Markus Zusak was the recipient of the 2014 Margaret A. Edwards Award, an annual recognition bestowed upon a writer for his or her contributions to the young adult literature genre in America. Although he published three novels between 1999 and 2001, he gained his widest international fame with I Am the Messenger (the United States title for The Messenger) in 2002 and The Book Thief in 2005. I Am the Messenger is a first-person narrative seen from the perspective of nineteen-year-old Ed Kennedy, an Australian taxi driver who receives cards with assignments that he is to carry out. Ed is underage for his job and is without direction in life. After Ed accidentally foils a bank robbery, his life changes. He receives an ace in the mail containing an assignment. At that point, he becomes The Messenger.

While a bank robber is attempting to leave the scene of his crime in the car of a friend, Ed unintentionally thwarts the escape. After talking to the authorities and being interviewed by the media, Ed becomes a hero. This is much different from the life he has been living. He has a difficult relationship with Bev, his mother. His father is recently deceased, and his only close companion is his dog. Ed lives alone. He participates in a weekly game of cards with a few friends, including the unmotivated and unemployed Ritchie, a carpenter named Marv, and his cab-driving colleague, Audrey, who does not return the affection he feels for her. When he receives an envelope in the mail shortly after the incident at the bank, it has no return address. Inside the envelope, he finds a playing card, the ace of diamonds. On the card are three addresses with times written with them.

At first, he believes the card was sent by his friends. They, however, assure him that they had no involvement, at which point he decides to go to the first address that appears on the card. It is midnight and he finds a man raping his wife on the porch of his house with a young daughter crying nearby. Another of the addresses is that of a widow suffering from senility. She calls Ed by the name of Jimmy. Ed is also led to Sophie, a young girl who cannot win her track meets in spite of running every morning. He helps her by bringing her an empty shoebox, which is meant to encourage her to attempt her next meet barefoot. She does not win but feels good about herself. Meanwhile, he does research to uncover what he can about the past of the old woman whose name is Milla. He learns that she is awaiting the return of her husband who died during World War II sixty years earlier. He pretends to be Jimmy and begins spending time reading to the widow. To complete the tasks the first card put before him, Ed receives a gun in the mail. He uses it to threaten to kill the rapist after kidnapping him.

Following his completion of the first card, Ed is visited by two men who enter his house and beat him. They also leave an ace of clubs. The next day finds Ed telling Audrey that he wants to be with her, but she rejects him. A series of events unfolds that finds Ed picking up a man with his cab and the man taking him on a ride that brings them to a formation of rocks on which three names appear. One is Thomas O’Reilly, the pastor of a failing church in a run-down area. Ed helps him organize a party and advertise it as a way to draw new parishioners. The next name is Angie Carusso, whom Ed finds buying ice cream for the three children she is raising alone. He buys one for her as a sign that she is appreciated. The final name is Gavin Rose.Gavin is a young boy who fights with his brother. As a way of bringing the two brothers together, Ed beats up Gavin so that his brother will team up with him to attack Ed, which indeed brings them closer to each other.

When Ed’s dog, Doorman, is stolen, he is forced to buy it back from a boy, who in addition to returning Doorman to him, gives Ed an ace of spades. This card contains the names of three well-known authors. Subsequent events find Ed helping a family in need of Christmas lights, confronting his mother about her feelings towards him and moving on from their differences, and going to an old movie theater where videos of Ed performing his assigned tasks appear on the screen. While at the theater, Ed finds the ace of hearts.

Written on the ace of hearts are the names of three movies. Ed eventually realizes that they refer to Ritchie, Marv, and Audrey. Ed encourages Ritchie to try to discover something that he cares about. He asks Marv, who has a reputation of being stingy with money, for a loan. Marv explains to Ed that he saves his money to care for a child he had with a girl who moved away years before. Ed gets Marv to go to the girl and ultimately they reconcile. In completion of this ace, Ed goes to Audrey early in the morning and dances with her with the hope of kindling a love for him within her. Upon returning to his apartment, Ed finds a joker with his name on it. He is not happy about this as he thought his time of following assignments from cards had ended.

One day, Ed picks up a man with his cab, and the man asks to be taken to all of the addresses that Ed has been sent to, which points out his many accomplishments. The man turns out to have been the bank robber, who then tells Ed to return home. There, Ed finds a man who gives him a folder detailing all that Ed has done. Approaching the end of the novel, things become philosophical as it is hinted that the man is the author, Markus Zusak who has written Ed’s story including the discussion at hand. Audrey comes to Ed, deciding she will stay with him. Ed, musing on realizing one’s full potential says, “I’m not the messenger at all. I’m the message.”