Hilarious, profound, and achingly true to life, Jonas Karlsson's new novel explores the nature of happiness through the eyes of a character you won't soon forget. Our hero, a passionate film buff, leads a life that revolves around his part-time job at a video store, the company of a few precious friends, and a daily routine that more often than not concludes with pizza and a movie in his treasured small space in Stockholm (yes, the author is Swedish). When he receives an astronomical invoice from a random national bureaucratic agency, everything tumbles into madness as he calls the hotline night and day to find out why he is the recipient of the largest bill in the entire country.
What is the price of a cherished memory? How much would you pay for a beautiful summer day? How will our carefree idealist, who is content with so little and has no chance of paying such a bill, find a way out of this mess? All these questions pull you through The Invoice and prove once again that Jonas Karlsson is simply a master of entertaining, intelligent, and life-affirming work.
Really? Okay, I get the message that you don't have to have material things to be happy. And I get that the protagonist was ridiculously happy. So, by billing him an insane amount of money based on that happiness delivers a message. I'm just not sure that it should take 200 pages (although the book is physically very small, and the story is a quick read) to say that. A coupla pages oughta do it.
Did I like it? What does a 2.25/4 tell you? And it's only that high for 3 reasons: 1) The book was mercifully short (a 700+ page Goldfinch-like book, and I would have been outa there!); 2) There was one scene in which we find out about an old love affair that he had which I found somewhat compelling; and 3) I did like a little romance at the end of the book. Other than that, the only other connections I made were of a personal nature. Do you want to know what those are? Of course you do:
1. He refers to having some crossword puzzles waiting for him in his apartment. Since I just started doing those again a couple of weeks ago, I liked the reference.
2. He talks about his friend Roger having an issue with a boat repair. And even after the issue is resolved, not costing Roger any money, he still complains about the cost. That reminded me of one of my favorite jokes. If you haven't heard the one about the old man who was "toisty," (read: thirsty), then remind me to tell it to you next time I see you.
That's about it, sports fans.