Subject: Character-driven

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window & Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

About the Book

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.


Fishbowl: A Novel by Bradley Somer

About the Book

A goldfish named Ian is falling from the 27th-floor balcony on which his fishbowl sits. He’s longed for adventure, so when the opportunity arises, he escapes from his bowl, clears the balcony railing and finds himself airborne. Plummeting toward the street below, Ian witnesses the lives of the Seville on Roxy residents.

There’s the handsome grad student, his girlfriend, and his mistress; the construction worker who feels trapped by a secret; the building’s super who feels invisible and alone; the pregnant woman on bed rest who craves a forbidden ice cream sandwich; the shut-in for whom dirty talk, and quiche, are a way of life; and home-schooled Herman, a boy who thinks he can travel through time. Though they share time and space, they have something even more important in common: each faces a decision that will affect the course of their lives. Within the walls of the Seville are stories of love, new life, and death, of facing the ugly truth of who one has been and the beautiful truth of who one can become.

Sometimes taking a risk is the only way to move forward with our lives. As Ian the goldfish knows, “An entire life devoted to a fishbowl will make one die an old fish with not one adventure had.”


My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

About the Book

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.


Wild by Cheryl Strayed

About the Book

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.


The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

About the Book

When she receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger, Madame Eva d’Orsey, Grace Monroe is drawn to uncover the identity of her mysterious benefactor.

Weaving through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, the story Grace uncovers is that of an extraordinary women who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. Immortalized in three evocative perfumes, Eva d’Orsey’s history will transform Grace’s life forever, forcing her to choose between the woman she is expected to be and the person she really is.


She Left Me the Gun by Emma Brockes

About the Book

A chilling work of psychological suspense and forensic memoir, She Left Me the Gun is a tale of true transformation: the story of a young woman who reinvented herself so completely that her previous life seemed simply to vanish, and of a daughter who transcends her mother’s fears and reclaims an abandoned past.

“One day I will tell you the story of my life,” promises Emma Brockes’s mother, “and you will be amazed.” Brockes grew up hearing only pieces of her mother’s past—stories of a rustic childhood in South Africa, glimpses of a bohemian youth in London—and yet knew that crucial facts were still in the dark.

Looking to unearth the truth after Paula’s death, Brockes begins a dangerous journey into the land—and the life—her mother fled from years before.


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

About the Book

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.


Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

About the Book

The story of 11-year-old Reuben Land's unusual family and their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older brother. Charged with the murder of two locals who terrorized their family, Davy has fled, understanding that the scales of justice will not weigh in his favor. But Reuben, his father, Jeremiah—a man of faith so deep he has been known to produce miracles—and Reuben's little sister, Swede, follow closely behind the fleeing Davy.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Discussion Questions

The following discussion questions for “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” were created by our member Michele. We freely share our original discussion questions, but please consider including a credit and link to our website.

  1. Do you think the transformation that Harold Fry? Or the transformation of his wife Maureen?

  2. Did you foresee that Harold & Maureen’s son had passed away, prior to the revelation towards the book’s end?

  3. Discuss the “cover up” that Queenie participated in for Harold. What were her possible motivations and how did this impact Harold’s path?

  4. In what ways do the “pilgrims”, who join in Harold’s walk, add to Harold’s experience versus detract from his pace?

  5. During an interview, the author states that she chose the book’s ending, of Harold and Maureen happy together on the beach, because of her view that “there is hope for anyone who can laugh.” Reflect on this comment. Is there an experience/period of time that you can relate this to?

  6. After years of no correspondence, Queenie wrote a kind letter of closure to inform Harold of her upcoming death. Who would be the surprised recipient of a “final farewell” letter from you?


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War Brides by Helen Bryan

About the Book

As evacuation gets underway and Britain waits for the Luftwaffe to arrive, the lives of five very different women are about to collide in the sleepy little village of Crowmarsh Priors.

Evangeline has eloped from New Orleans with naval captain Richard Fairfax. A Sussex village is about as far away from home as she can possibly imagine, but brings her nearer to her true love—Laurent, who has fled to France.

Alice is resigned to life as the parish spinster, but the war will bring her friendships and passion she could never have foreseen.

Elsie leaves her East End home at fifteen, to become an under-house maid for Lady Marchmount. She soon catches the eye of another young evacuee—Bernie Carpenter.

Tanni has fled from Vienna, and arrives in Crowmarsh Priors with her newborn son, not knowing if her family are alive or if she will ever see them again.

Frances is to see out the war with her godmother, Lady Marchmont. She has lived a carefree life of privilege, but now her desire to help her friend, Tanni, leads her into a whole new world of danger and excitement.

Together these five women will face hardship, passion and danger. They form a bond that lasts for the rest of their lives and sees them through their darkest hours.