Alan Karlsson is a Forest Gump-like character who stumbles his way into some fantastic situations. There are two parallel story lines. In the first one, Alan is reluctant about attending his 100th birthday party in the senior’s home, so he jumps out of his window, into the flowerbed, in his slippers, and walks away. Embarking on a very unlikely adventure for a centenarian, this story line was my favourite.
The other storyline are flashbacks to various stages of this 100-year-old man’s life which prove to be hugely interesting because he blunders into situations that are larger-than-life, and accidentally makes some very famous acquaintances. It’s all fiction of course, but his unassuming manner (like Forest Gump) makes it very funny and quirky. And his connections from the past, uncannily get him out of trouble in the present.
Unfortunately the historical and political backstories can be a little tedious, but hang in there because he unwittingly manages to get out of some unbelievable binds because of who and what he knows. Feel free to skim those sections a little, but don’t miss the punchline. What improved my experience with this book was listening to the audio book version, which is read beautifully by acclaimed narrator Steven Crossley (and I could daydream a little through the boring bits without losing the thread). Judging by the reviews, people either really love this farce, or couldn’t even get through it.
What this book did for me, was make me poignantly realise that when I see old folks in a nursing home, there’s so much more there than a frail person pushing a walker–there’s a whole interesting life with amazing stories that will soon be lost. Ask questions, find out more! They’ll be blessed by your interest and you’ll be enriched by their unique perspective.
There is already a movie out with the same name which I look forward to seeing soon. It was originally written in Swedish and was translated by Rod Bradbury.