The day I finished a job in aged care, I headed to the bookshop and was instantly drawn to a title; The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.
A centenarian escaping from a nursing home for one last hurrah? Brilliant.
Allan Karlsson is 100 years old. This seems to be cause for great excitement to everyone in his retirement home, along with the mayor and the local media. Everyone that is, except Allan. So he decides to withdraw his RSVP, puts on his slippers, and escapes out his bedroom window.
As the police, media and a few angry gang members chase him across Sweden, Allan continues to live the way he has for exactly 100 years – casually, impulsively, open-mindedly and with a huge amount of good luck.
The book runs on two tangents – in one, we see Allan's latest adventures as he finds a suitcase full of cash and accidentally committing one murder, then another, while avoiding a return to the retirement home where the evil Director Alice confiscates his beloved vodka. He's aided and abetted by his increasing entourage of a recluse, a hot-dog vendor, a serial student, a farmer, a cop, a criminal, a German shepherd and a circus elephant.
This storyline alternates with Allan's life history, giving us some insight into the particular set of skills he has acquired over his long career, making him a nightmare for the many people trying to hunt him down. Similar to Forrest Gump, Allan has managed to unwittingly change the course of history, falling from one bizarre situation to the next.
Born in 1905 and raised by a socialist father who runs away to join the cause in Russia, Allan develops an aversion to politics in any form. In his early teens, with a knack for dynamite and bothering the authorities, he finds himself compelled to leave home after an unfortunate incident. It becomes apparent that being an "explosives expert" is looked upon favourably by world leaders and he soon finds himself fighting on both sides of the Spanish Civil War, accidentally inventing the atomic bomb and charming world leaders on both sides of the Cold War. In between vodkas, Allan rescues Chairman Mao's wife, finds himself in a Russian Gulag, consoles a sobbing young Kim Jong Il, changes the course of Balinese politics and finds himself spying for the CIA.
Though all events are purely fictional, in this book you'll find a crash course on the past 100 years of world history. If you've ever found yourself stumped on the history round at your local pub quiz, I would highly recommend swotting up on this weird and wonderful story of one of the luckiest men alive.