On his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson climbs out of the window of his Swedish nursing home and makes a run for it. Actually, as most people his age would do, he shuffles off to an adventure that leaves readers to decide if he is a hero or a bumbling fool.
Take a deep breath for the title: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson. Karlsson’s daring escape from his caretakers quickly becomes the least surprising of his actions in this ridiculous, but charming story. His life becomes linked with an unlikely collection of co-conspirators, shady criminals, and law enforcement officers. Millions of crowns, several killings, explosions and an elephant named Sonya all play roles.
If you are a history buff, you may be intrigued by his connections to Harry Truman, Mao Tse-tung, General Franco and Joseph Stalin. And explosives. Then there is his role in the development of nuclear weaponry.
At the beginning of the story, I turned pages as fast as I could. I got bogged down a few times in the flashbacks to his earlier exploits, told in perhaps too much detail. But if I live to be 100, I know I will share Allan Karlsson’s desire to do the unexpected, to defy those who think they have me figured out. I just hope those who follow me are as curious about my fate as I was about Allan Karlsson’s.