Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
There have been a few titles released recently that have been a mouthful: The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules. And of course 11 years ago there was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
I’m pretty sure Romain Puertolas’ debut novel has them all beat: The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe.
Our protagonist, Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod is a con man who has convinced his village to send him to Paris to buy a new bed of nails for his rheumatism. Once in Paris, he cons a taxi driver out of his fare, manages to place his order for the bed (which apparently is some kind of Ikea speciality even though he will, obviously, have to put the whole thing together himself), and camps down in the store overnight. He ends up lodging in a wardrobe to evade capture for being in the store after hours and thus begins his journey to the UK, Spain, Italy and even Libya.
What starts out as a very plot driven, amusing little story, becomes about the greater themes of personal transformation , making your way in the world, and helping your fellow man. Our fakir meets all kinds of people on his accidental journey and each of them, in their own way, serve to make him realize the error of his ways. In this way, a book that at first I thought was just a fun, casual romp through different parts of the world, ends up making a big point about the world as we know it.
I enjoyed the ride but I’m not sure if the deeper themes, coming as they did in only the last quarter of the book, didn’t come too late? I liked the turn that the book took; I just wish we had more of that through the whole thing. But I guess since our “hero” was essentially a crook, he wouldn’t have been able to see any of those things until his world view changed. After romping through 200+ pages having a good time, I was surprised when I got a little choked up towards the end. Puertolas deftly handles the plight of illegal immigrants, the sacrifices people make for a better life in another country. But this should come as no surprise once you realize that he works as a police inspector with French border services.
I think you will enjoy this book if you’re looking for a light read with heart. Something that will make you feel pretty alright when you finish it.
If you want to read a fantastic interview with Romain Puertolas, head on over to One More Page… where Karen got to sit down and ask him some questions. It’s a really insightful interview – great job Karen!