Zusak’s a beautiful writer. As I stated in my review for The Book Thief, as soon as you read one of his sentences, you’re immediately surrounded by the world he’s created. The visual quality to his prose is truly stunning. It seems so effortless… you do get the sense that Zusak’s really writing for fun.
The first chapter of this novel is one of the best I’ve read in quite a while. The reader’s immediately immersed in the midst of a bank robbery complete with a gun toting robber, a getaway car, scared bank tellers, nervous hostages sprawled across the floor and an argument—and of all things, about a car! I felt like I was watching an episode of Top Gear
with Jeremy and James making fun of little Hammond with his circa 1960s Opel Kadett , which he fondly named Oliver, in the Botswana special. The argument’s so crazy and inappropriate for the situation, I just couldn’t help but fall in love with Ed our protagonist, Ritchie and Marv—the owner of that ancient, atrocious blue Ford Falcon.
The little details are what really make this book something special. I just love lines like “I wash but rarely iron” “he stinks a kind of stink that’s impossible to rid him of […] The initial stench of the dog slaps them in the face, and it’s all over” and little images like the card on the coffee table “floating on the dust. Growing among it” and Marv sleeping in his car with the broken windshield “with his head twisted in his hands, and the mosquitoes…queuing up for his blood.” They’re so bleak—I can’t help but love them!
So why am I giving this book four instead of five stars? The plot. I can’t help but feel that Zusak’s giving us the ideal situation. I don’t think change is always as easy as this book makes it. It’s hard and takes time; the effect doesn’t always last. Part of me wishes that the novel had an epilogue or sequel, detailing what happened to all of those people Ed touches with his presence and kind words. I’m particularly curious about Audrey’s final decision. Does she stick with her choice, or will she prove to be a Maxie from General Hospital
? It’s also a story that’s been done so many times, from It Happened on Fifth Avenue
with Gale Storm to Miracle on 34th Street
to even Jimmy Stewart in Harvey
. Even the grand reveal at the end—the identity of real messenger—has a flavor of that famous Chuck Jones cartoon with a solo Daffy Duck: “Duck Amuck.” Yet, regardless, Zusak’s talent with his pen can help you forget all of that extra noise, placing you right in the moment, allowing you to enjoy the ride.