Book recommendation: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while I crave a book that’s a bit, well, ridiculous. Not in the I-can’t-believe-this-got-published sense, but rather in the Ha!-I-can’t-believe-someone-thought-of-that sense.

I have some novels on my bookshelves that can satisfy that craving, but I’m always on the lookout for something new. Then, one day, I came across The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Honestly, the title alone had me thinking this was probably a novel I would enjoy. And once I read the summary, I knew that I had found a book I needed to read.

The 100-Year-Old Man starts with an introduction to Allan Karlsson, a man who, as you may have guessed, has recently turned 100 years old. The old folks’ home Allan lives in is preparing for his birthday party, but Allan wants no part of it. His solution to the problem is to climb out his window, leading to a journey filled with criminals, an elephant, and a whole lot of money.

But a major aspect of the novel is also Allan’s past. You see, Allan hasn’t lead any ordinary life. He’s an explosions expert – a career that has led him to experience life in just about every corner of the globe. And Jonasson describes these events in such an interesting way, too; they way he mixes Allan’s life with actual pieces of history makes the stories almost believable.

Although the novel took a bit of getting used to (the format is a bit different than most), I ended up loving The 100-Year-Old Man. The voice, in particular, was extremely entertaining. The way it casually discusses some of what happens (for example, certain deaths and Allan’s encounters with some rather historical figures) is fantastic.

Speaking of which, I have to take a moment to talk about the characters. While they are, in some ways, completely outlandish, they also have a lot of very real, very relatable personality traits. I ended up wanting to know as much about them as I could, and I’m so glad that I was able to get to know Allan as well as I did.

Goodreads summary

The international publishing sensation—over two million copies sold.

A reluctant centenarian much like Forrest Gump (if Gump were an explosives expert with a fondness for vodka) decides it’s not too late to start over …

After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he’s still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn’t interested (and he’d like a bit more control over his vodka consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey, involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant).

It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory: Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, but he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a boy, he somehow finds himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle. Quirky and utterly unique, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has charmed readers across the world.

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