centenarians. (a book review)

My grandma lived to be over 100 years old.  She sang opera, planted canned pineapple, and always had a giant smile waiting for you.  There’s a woman from our church who’s well over 100, and until recently she drove herself to church every Sunday morning.  One day she called me up to help her stain a gazebo in her backyard, saying she was about to climb a ladder and do it, but “it’s getting too sultry outside”.

I’ve always been impressed by these centenarians (the official term for someone over 100 years old).  It often seems as if they’ve got a flicker of joy from having pulled one over on Mr.Life-Expectancy.  So when I saw a book titled “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared“, by Jonas Jonasson, I was intrigued.  I took a chance on a book and author I’d never heard before, 100yearoldmanand was pleasantly surprised.

History was never my forte in High School.  Sure I could tell you when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and the date of our nations’ independence, but that’s about it.  I’d cram just enough studying to pass a test, and not long after that most of what I’d learned would be forgotten.  The unfortunate thing about this, is that so much of the world we live in today comes from recent history.  Which sounds like a pretty ignorant thing to even say. 🙂

I say this, because I think this book could probably be used to trick high school students into learning more about modern history (the past 100 years or so primarily).  Without giving too much away, the book does a great job of introducing world leaders from many major countries, giving brief thoughts on “capitalism vs. socialism”, and even topics of national security and world wars.  Teachers could use this book as a launching point into quite a few important conversations.

Here’s just a brief moment in the hilarity of events that happen from this one man escaping the passive prison of his nursing home:  “And not only that, Mr Stalin. I have been in China for the purpose of making war against Mao Tse-tung, before I went to Iran and prevented an attempt to assassinate Churchill.’  ‘Churchill? That fat pig!’ Stalin shouted.  Stalin recovered for a moment before downing a whole glass of vodka. Allan watched enviously. He too would like to have his glass filled, but didn’t think it was the right moment for such a request.”

From the building of the atom bomb, to being a prisoner of war, to bonding with an elephant – the book goes back and forth between Allan’s life as he aged, and the current story.  It’s a great blend of humor, ridiculous historical moments that could never have happened, and crime drama.  It stands in pretty big contrast to another book I’ve just finished reading, “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” (a great resource for understanding the current racial tensions from the perspective of the aged, and a man you’d want to have as your grandpa)…but he’s a young 91 years old, and so doesn’t belong in this review.  Both great books that will make you want to drink in your abilities now, and live a life that offers your 100-year-old self a few things to smile about…

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