Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Invoice

Title:  The Invoice
Author:  Jonas Karlsson
Publication Information:  Hogarth. 2016. 208 pages.
ISBN:  110190514X / 978-1101905142

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It was such an incredible amount, 5,700,000 kronor."

Favorite Quote:  "You see ... that way you have of being impressed by everything you experience. In our formulas...well, what can I say? It quickly mounts up?"

What if happiness was taxed? What would your happiness be measured at? Do you recognize your own happiness? What makes for a happy life? These are the philosophical questions this very short novel takes on in a quirky, slightly dystopian way.

Our nameless hero leads what he believes is a small, humdrum life. He works part time, lives alone, pines for a lost love, and has one friend. Nothing much, he feels, to be be excited about. One day, he gets a bill for over 5 million kronor. What for, you might ask? Because "being alive costs."

So begins his adventure or misadventure. Initially, he has no idea what the bill is for. Once he figures that out, he has no idea why his bill is so high especially compared to others. He undertakes all kinds of arguments to lower the bill. Each episode becomes a reflection back on some aspect of his life - his love of movies, his great love affair, his apartment, and other parts of his life. Every episode - the ones he perceives as happy and those he views with sadness - results in his bill increasing. Of course, he is completely and absolutely unable to pay the amount.

On the other side of the argument is the nebulous, bureaucratic organization with their charts, figures, graphs, and formulas. The World Resource Distribution (WRD) organization has a dystopian "big brother is watching" feel. They know all about our hero's life, down to the details. The face of that organization, however, becomes the very human Maud, the customer service representative that our hero calls repeatedly.

So goes this seemingly simple story. It is about an unnamed man, a woman named Maud, and an ever increasing bill. It has, of course, a fable like quality with a philosophical interpretation. This book does not have the humor of Jonas Karlsson's first book The Room. That book created a social and professional construct I related to and found laugh out loud funny. This book is more sweet and nostalgic than funny.

It is short and very quick to read. It is simple. It is simply written. It has a main character reminiscent of Walter Mitty or of Don Tillman. It has a clear message about the little things in life and the meaning they carry. It has an ending that has me going, "Aaawwww....sweet" and leaves me smiling.

I am not even sure why I like the book as much as I do; I just know I do.  I think the reason is that in its simplicity, the book conveys a powerful message. In this very complicated world, how wonderful is it to sit down with a simple, sweet story. How wonderful is it to be reminded of the joy of our every day life. How wonderful to be reminded that so many times our joy comes from our willingness to live and take something from every experience. I suppose I am at the time and place in my life for that message to make an impact.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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