I admit that it was the title that caught me eye as I was looking for another book online: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Hachette Books, New York; 2012.) Even then I probably wouldn’t have bought it except I bumped into it at a bookstore just a few days later–and it was on sale. With no expectations, I ended up reading late into the night–and laughing out loud as I read it, rousing my sleeping husband. That’s not something I often do! I want to pass it on as sometimes we need a book that makes us laugh, feel good, allow the preposterous and have a happy (and preposterous) ending.
Originally written in Swedish by Jonas Jonasson (the name a giveaway), I’ve started referring to it as a Forrest Gump take off. It begins with Alan Karlsson’s on the run from his own 100th birthday party at the Old Folks’ Home. The bad-tempered Director Alice won’t let him drink his vodka anymore, and he decided there must be some other place to die than there. What follows is saga of being on the run from drug dealers, the law (someone gets killed accidentally), and the media who take up the story. And slowly the story of his life is told as well.
Like the Forrest Gump film story, Alan is a man who grew up quite ordinary and unremarkable in the ways the world values, yet went on to meet world leaders and affect the course of history, primarily because of his understanding of the use of explosives– Albert Einstein,, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Mao, and Winston Churchill to name a few. As he runs into a host of colorful characters who join him on his getaway–and all who understand and join him in his love of vodka–the story deepens into one of growing possibility that a man of 100 thought was over for his lifetime.
And like Forrest Gump, Alan Karlsson takes the world as it comes, yet refuses to be anyone other than who he is–which is the real strength of any of us. Read the first chapter, if it doesn’t make you smile, let it go. But if it does, enjoy it. I wonder if you will laugh out loud.