Bridge of Clay

Most book reviews I can type up fairly quickly. I don’t spend a lot of time on them because the words just pour out. But this is a book I have had to spend a lot of time thinking about before I was able to write anything. And there’s no way my limited writing abilities will convey just how powerful and beautiful this book is. Markus Zusak is a master artist, and we are very lucky to be receiving his gifts.

I was given The Book Thief by my school librarian back when I was teaching. Somehow she got a hardback copy when it first came out and thought I would enjoy it. I was intrigued by the premise but didn’t fully realize what a profound book it was until a few chapters in. At that point, I grabbed a pen (I NEVER write in books unless I’m annotating to teach it) and began underlining some of the most beautiful phrases I had ever read, especially in a young adult book. By the end, I was sobbing.  My favorite sentence in literature is toward the end. “They hugged and cried and fell to the floor.” That’s it. Such a simple sentence. But it gutted me. I’ve reread The Book Thief once and loved it just as much. It’s perfect.

I then went back to read his earlier work I Am the Messenger, which is an equally amazing book, but the beautiful language of The Book Thief wasn’t as developed. But, as a story, it is definitely worth reading. When I heard he had a book coming out this fall, of course I was going to read it. After 14 years of The Book Thief being published, I was ready. Bridge of Clay is the best book I’ve read this year. No question. Told from the perspective of the oldest Dunbar brother, Matthew, we learn the story of the Dunbar boys (there are five of them), but especially of Clay. We learn the story of their mother, father, Clay’s big secret (be ready. You will have your heart torn out), Clay’s love for the neighbor girl, and how these boys manage to survive on their own. Zusak tells a gorgeous story, but it’s really his language, phrasing, and simple word choice that blows me away. I spent a few weeks to read this book because I was savoring each moment with it. Bridge of Clay is a masterpiece.

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I Am the Messenger

Originally posted June 2010 on another site.

The Book Thief is simply one of the greatest books ever written. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. I was very nervous to read this one, though, by the same author. Nothing can compare to BF. And I was right. It’s nowhere near as good. However, assuming one hasn’t read BF, this book stands alone extremely well. I took it to training with me on Thursday morning and read while I was supposed to be working. I had to find out what happened!

Ed is a simple guy, nothing special, not smart, not motivated, just exists. He drives a cab, is in love with his friend Audrey, and happens to disrupt a bank robbery, getting the robber arrested. Soon after, Ed receives a playing card in the mail. Yes, that’s right. Just a regular card from a regular deck. However, there are addresses on this card. Addresses of homes of people Ed doesn’t know. After going to each address, he realizes he has to help these people. Sometimes the help is easy and obvious. Other times, it takes a long time for Ed to realize what it is he needs to do. However, helping these people brings such joy to Ed, that it’s impossible not to root for him.

Who is sending these cards? It’s quite the mystery. I never knew which direction this book was going. Are the cards being sent by some future version of himself, or a friend he knows, or is Ed dead and imagining the whole thing, or is his dog really not a dog, but a person who Ed converses with. All of these thoughts seemed plausible throughout the entire book. I just couldn’t figure out how it was all going to work out. It does all work out in the end, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out.

I really liked this book. Read the Book Thief for sure, but maybe after this one, so it’s not a disappointment.