The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared Book Club Questions

The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared should have a prologue telling you to stow your tray table and buckle up, because this absurd romp logs more frequent flier miles than The Points Guy. The mere fact that we get a rare elderly character is a great start, and then Allan Karlsson takes us on the ride of his life.

What a fun book club read! This book has no shortage of things to talk about– including the wacky cast of characters, Allan’s nation-building adventures, dumb criminals and of course, the suitcase full of cash. Our book club questions for The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared will help you get a fun conversation started. This 100-Year-Old-Man discussion guide includes 10 talking prompts, some selected reviews and a synopsis.

And if you’ve now developed a taste for absurd adventures, keep reading because we also have suggestions for three related books to add to your TBR pile.

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared book club questions. with book cover

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The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared Synopsis

The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson

A reluctant centenarian much like Forrest Gump (if Gump were an explosives expert) 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.

10 Book Club Questions: The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

  1. This is post-modernist absurdity. And the absurdities do pile up like so many bowling pins. Which did you find the most delightful…and which the most frustrating?
  2. Did this really happen? Has elderly Allan made all this up as a story to tell his fellow retirement home residents? Is his memory going sideways?
  3. Or rather, setting aside the disbelief and going with the story, what was Allan’s key to surviving all of his dangerous circumstances? His good nature? His aptitude? His flexible morals?
  4. Broadly defined, the butterfly effect happens when a small change causes much larger consequences. And it seems that some of Allan’s efforts were like a bufferfly effect for fraught political history. From saving Franco, to solving the atomic bomb, to queueing up China for communism.

    Setting aside the preposterous coincidences, do you think that a smart, capable, very long-lived person can create their own version of the butterfly effect?
  5. Who were the bigger bumblers? The police, the criminal “Never Again” gang, or Herbert and Amanda Einstein?
  6. Some folks have compared the book to Forrest Gump, as he was also the unwitting participant in world events. Do you think that the comparison is fair or accurate?
  7. The author uses repetition to underscore the humor of the novel. Such as when he describes the thug from the Never Again gang as “A young man of slight build with long blonde and greasy hair a scraggly beard and a Jean jacket with the words ‘never again’ on the back”, which was used repeatedly. Or the repeated use of use of explosions to signal a change in the story arc.

    Did you notice the repetition? Did it work for you?
  8. Jonasson has published a sequel called The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old-Man. Discuss with one another what possible absurdities can you imagine Allan getting up to in Bali.
  9. What does the book say about aging? And how does Allan defy our typical perceptions about elderly people?
  10. So, you’re 100 and you’ve been forced to live in a retirement home with an overly strict, fun-crushing Director. Assuming that you can walk and have at least most of your marbles, would you climb out the window and disappear?

Selected Reviews for the 100-Year-Old-Man

“Crazily ludicrous and delightfully hilarious, we watch this man’s Quixotic quest unfold at a snail’s pace, though he is the tortoise to his trackers’ hare.”

“Dumb. Oh so dumb. The humor, if it could be called that, is roughly on par with children’s knock knock jokes. And this feeble comedy is hammered on with an incredible relentlessness over 400 pages.”

“I enjoyed the way historical figures and events were tied in with Allan’s remarkable life story, I enjoyed the characters, the daftness of it all and of course what’s not to love about an elephant.”

“… this book is absurd. And not absurd in the fictional way, not fantasy-absurd. No. Real absurd. There’s nothing plausible about this work. I know, after reading it, that it was probably meant to be absurd and that in general fiction is supposed to touch on situations that might not be real, but Jonasson went out of his way to make this one really test your patience!”


Use our guide to find dozens of book ideas for your group.

3 Books Like the 100-Year-Old-Man

If you want more old people, we also suggest the Thursday Murder Club, which is a bunch of assisted-living residents who solve mysteries. And if you’ve read that one, we also have a list of books similar to The Thursday Murder Club.

In The 100-Year-Old-Man, Harold and his crew go on an absurd journey. If you are keen on the topic and would like to explore it with more serious intent (and less absurdity), check out our list of books about pilgrimages.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

Poor Harold. A deep sadness has compelled him to take a most unlikely 600 mile quest on foot to visit an old flame, who lives in a care home. Harold becomes an unwilling media sensation and accrues an motley cast of disciples along the way.

Harold isn’t nearly as old as Allan, but he’s certainly on an adventure. There is plenty of absurdity along the way and the book has a lot of heart.

Less, Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur is a not-very-successful author. He may be 50 year’s younger than Allan, but they have a few things in common. Both are trying to dodge something they don’t want to do, and so they abscond in order to avoid it.

In Arthur’s case, it’s a wedding invitation from his ex-partner. He simply can’t deal with the fact that his boyfriend of 9 years is going to marry someone else. So, he digs through his mail and accepts a series of literary invitations from around the world.

As he traipses off on his own version of Eat, Pray, Love, he has some grand adventures, but he also gets real with himself and learns to take control of his life.

This book won a Pulitzer and if you like those awards, check out our book lists and reading guides that feature Pulitzer winners.

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart

Shteyngart is particularly good at putting his characters into absurd circumstances and he pokes hard at societal norms. So, any of his books may scratch the satirical itch.

But we are recommending Super Sad True Love story for its global reach (like Allan’s adventures) and messy politics.

This near-future America is functionally illiterate, in financial crisis, the “Bi-Partisan” party that runs the country isn’t really all that, and China is about to foreclose on New York. The main character, Lenny is a book-loving slacker whose (unsuccessful) job is selling rich Europeans an iffy life-lengthening process. His girlfriend Eunice has a degree in “images” and she tries to get him out of his quaint habit of “verballing” and into a technology focused age (which will look familiar to you.)

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Book Club questions for the 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

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