The novel is about Allan Karlsson, the eponymous 100-year-old man, who is looking forward to the hundredth birthday party they're going to throw him in the nursing home so little that he climbs through the window of his bedroom, makes his way to the nearest bus station, and sits down to wait for a bus to... anywhere. Any place that doesn't have Director Alice insisting that he be a good sport and have a good time and wear a sparkly party hat will be just fine with Allan, thank you very much.
But fate takes a turn when a disheveled young man asks Allan to guard his suitcase while he's in the restroom, and the bus arrives before he returns...
... so Allan takes the suitcase and absconds with it.
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In Allan Karlsson's case, the one act of boarding a bus with someone else's suitcase causes an increasingly hilarious series of close escapes, the entire time with Allan placidly sailing through the furor with serenity and a Panglossian certainty that everything will turn out all right in the end. After all, that's worked for him for a hundred years, why should it stop working now?