The idea of this book is great: a man who is about to have his 100th birthday party escapes from his retirement home and embarks on a series of hilarious and dangerous adventures. And, for the most part, it is funny. But, it is also told in two time periods…the present day (where the man is 100) and the past (where the man in younger but still having adventures). I LOVED the present day parts. They are well-written and VERY funny…sardonic, sarcastic, and very, very dark in its humor. But, the flashbacks to the past are…part funny, part endearing, and part history lesson. After a while, all of the histrionics of the flashbacks begins to take its toll. I wanted more (all) of the present day story.
The flashbacks play out more like Being There (the film and originally the Jerzy Kosinski book) and Forrest Gump…where the man, Allan and his life and works alter segments of history, such as Los Alamos, actual events in China, North Korea, etc., where he seemed to have no trouble affecting international politics just by being himself. Aside from being in the “thick” of things politically (President Truman was a good friend), Allan was also high adventurous and enterprising as a young man (he walked back to his homeland of Sweden over the Himalayas after his involvement in the Far East was over. So, the flashbacks part was a overly unbelievable and less funny than the antics of the 100-year-old Allan and his group of misfits. These misfits include a thief who befriends Allan shortly after his “escape” from the retirement home, a hot dog cart owner (who also has a car that comes in handy), a home owner who just happens to own the house Allan and his crew stumble upon (the home owner is also the owner of a stolen/found elephant), and eventually a crime lord. If you want a funny, lively and truly entertaining read, try this one. Skim the flashbacks (they are funny in parts…just too long) but savor the present-day adventures of a 100-year-old man.