Study Guide

I Am the Messenger Summary

By Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger Summary

Meet Ed Kennedy, a nineteen-year-old cab driver who likes playing cards with his friends… and that's about it. He doesn't really have any life goals or prospects, and no one expects anything from him. One day he's just minding his own business, when the bank he's in gets robbed—and though we'd be hoping the cops arrive soon, Ed instead decides to take matters into his own hands.

Ed thinks it would be a great idea to pick up the robber's gun when he accidentally drops it on the way out of the bank. (Pro tip: Don't try this at home, Shmoopsters.) He then shoots at the robber, but misses and hits the getaway car instead. Ed's declared a local hero. He's also asked to testify against the bank robber, and when he gets to court, the robber threatens his life. Ed thinks he's pretty much dead anyway, considering the life he leads. Sigh.

Ed returns to life as usual, but a few days later, he gets a mysterious package in the mail: it's an Ace of Diamonds with three addresses and times on it. He has no clue who sent the strange package his way, or any idea about what it might mean, but eventually Ed works up the nerve to check out the first address. And when he does, he gets the shock of his life: he finds a man raping his wife. Unsure of what he should do, Ed goes home.

Not all the addresses are scary though—one is just a lonely old woman who needs a friend, and another is a fifteen-year-old who wants to run and Ed helps her find her step. By the time he's done helping the second two, Ed gets the courage to go back to the first house. He thinks about killing the guy, but settles on encouraging him to leave town and never return. Did we say encourage? We meant threaten. Ed begins to like the messages he gets because, well, it gives him something to do—aside from the messages, he still just plays cards and drives cabs.

As time goes on, Ed receives other aces (of clubs, spades, and hearts) in the mail with similar cryptic messages. He's sent to do all kinds of things for people, from buying an ice cream for a poor, rundown mom, to filling up an empty church for a cool priest. He buys new Christmas lights for a loving family, gets two brothers to stop beating on each other, and helps a movie theater owner with his old business. All in all, Ed's feeling pretty good about the work he's doing… until one of the messages hits close to home.

He's sent to an Italian restaurant where his mom is having dinner with some guy. Ed doesn't know what's more shocking: that his mom is all dolled up, or that she's moved on so quickly since his dad died six months ago. He confronts his mom and the two of them have a battle of words; it turns out she's been seeing this guy longer than six months, which really disappoints Ed. But that's not all. His mom tells Ed that he's such a disappointment himself. She wants him to get off his butt and do something for once in his life. It's a rough encounter to say the least.

Ed's last messages send him to see his three best friends: Ritchie, Marv, and Audrey. Ritchie's a pretty easy mission. He's a bum—and that's coming from lazy-bones Ed, so you know it must be true—so Ed convinces his friend to get out there and get a job. Next up comes Marv. Ed didn't know it, but Marv secretly has a two-year-old kid that he's never met, so Ed helps the two of them connect. Audrey presents the biggest challenge of all, though. Ed is in love with her, and he has to let her know. They dance for three minutes, but don't say anything. Later though, Audrey comes over and kisses Ed—message received.

Ed begins wondering who's sending these playing cards, and what the deal is. Then, one day, he gets an answer. He's just minding his own business, driving the cab around, when he picks up the bank robber from the beginning. He's already out of jail (six months later) and asks Ed if he remembers being threatened by him. Um… of course, dude… It's not something you exactly forget.

Then Ed thinks about how he's actually alive and living now, and doesn't want to die. The bank robber leads Ed to a man with a folder, and this random guy says he set the whole thing up because he saw how ordinary Ed was. He wanted to see if Ed could do something for others and, as it turns out, he could. Ed finally figures out that he's not the messenger—he's the message.

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