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By Donna Vought
Black Earth Public Library 

The Book Nook

Reviewing ‘Ghost Boy’ and ‘The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared’


Welcome to “The Book Nook,” a biweekly column with summaries of one or two books. I hope book lovers find some treasures here and that non-readers are inspired to share my love of reading.

My connection to books started with parents who encouraged reading at an early age. It was a great way to learn, explore, and discover. Although most of us lead busy lives, I’ve found that dedicating some time for reading is rewarding on many levels.

While my specialty is contemporary fiction, I also enjoy good non-fiction as you’ll see from one of today’s suggestions. I’ll share old favorites and new discoveries from various genres such as thrillers, mysteries, humor, adventure, science fantasy/fiction, and more.

This column’s theme is “escape” since this is when you may be experiencing cabin fever and would like to escape winter one way or another. The right book can lift your spirits or let you escape into someone else’s life for a while.

The first pick, “Ghost Boy” by Martin Pistorius and Megan Lloyd-Davies, is a biography about a 12-year-old boy who develops a mysterious disease that degrades his speech, memory, and physical abilities. Doctors are baffled, and none of the many medical treatments work. One day, he becomes aware that he’s awake, but that he’s lost years of his life. Even worse, he feels trapped inside a body that won’t let him communicate to family and medical staff that he can see, hear, and feel, but not move or talk.

Imagine being able to feel the pain of having your body in an uncomfortable position for hours without being able to move or ask someone for help, or the frustration as people talk about you and at you, but never to or with you. He spends years trying to keep his mind active and is desperate to convince others that his mind is alive and well. His attempts to move his body or make contact with his family and caregivers fail, leaving him in despair.

Fortunately, a therapist believes that Martin’s brain is more functional than anyone believes and convinces his family to visit a treatment center that may allow him to communicate. Testing reveals that he can communicate, although not by conventional methods. This leads to the use of increasingly complex methods that give him options for communication and more freedom. It was a turning point in his life, and from there, it’s an uplifting story that gave me a tremendous sense of appreciation for what I have.

Martin has many obstacles to overcome – fighting to come out of a coma, orienting himself once he’s conscience, fighting the depression that overwhelms him when he realizes he’s trapped in his body, and finding ways to overcome all remaining obstacles to leading as normal a life as possible. In fact, he’s able to use gifts to achieve things no one suspected would be possible.

While this may seem like a depressing read, Martin doesn’t dwell on the negative aspects, and his inspiring perseverance gives us all hope as spring edges ever nearer.

And to quote Monty Python: “And now for something completely different.”

Jonas Jonasson’s “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” is a comedy offering danger and chaos via a series of wild events.

It’s Allan Karlsson’s 100th birthday, and the last thing he wants to do is join the celebration his nursing home staff has prepared. Convinced it will be a dismal affair, he decides to make his escape. Shuffling to the bus station, he swaps the money in his wallet for a ticket to as far away as he can go – which is a deserted train station in the middle of a forest.

While waiting for the bus, a man asks him to watch his suitcase for a few minutes while he uses the tiny bathroom. Allen makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to steal the suitcase in the hopes that it contains shoes he can swap for his slippers. He slips onto the bus before his theft is discovered, and the contents of the suitcase make it very clear why the owner wants it back and is willing to do anything to recover it.

This starts a zany romp filled with misunderstandings and a long chase with quite the cast of characters – human and otherwise.

His disappearance is an embarrassment to the town’s mayor, who tells several people they should keep Allan’s disappearance a secret, forgetting that one of these people is a newspaper reporter. And the secret’s out…. Now the police are involved and become convinced this is a kidnapping with the possibility that organized crime is involved.

The novel alternates between Allan’s current journey and his backstory, where you discover he’s no stranger to adventure. In fact, he could drop some pretty big names if he wasn’t such a humble person. He’s also pretty adept at not getting drawn into others’ problems or politics, to the amusement of some and the consternation of others. His experience with explosives comes in handy as he travels the world in a rather unconventional way.

Allan displays a knack for focusing on the practical regardless of how crazy or dangerous the circumstances. The author has a knack for moving the story along while making quiet comments about the times we live in and human nature. If Allan’s past and present adventures amuse you as much as they did me, you’ll be laughing out loud.

Donna is a librarian at the Black Earth Public Library and enjoys devouring nearly any type of fiction, especially science fiction/fantasy, humor. and historical fiction.  Her current list of all-time favorites include Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, anything by Neil Gaiman, Tracy Chevalier, Jodi Picoult, and Dave Barry, with apologies to the countless authors she feels should be included.


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