by Jonas Karlsson
Published: July 12th 2016
Genres: Adult Fiction
Format: Hardcover (204 pages)
Hilarious, profound, and achingly true-to-life, Jonas Karlsson’s novel explores the true nature of happiness through the eyes of hero you won’t soon forget
A passionate film buff, our hero’s life 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 movie in his treasured small space in Stockholm. When he receives an astronomical invoice from a random national bureaucratic agency, everything will tumble 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 it back, 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.
The Invoice reminded me of The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo because it’s more of an allegory about life instead of a purely fictional story. The Invoice wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the Alchemist. Why would the main character take this whole bill-for-happiness thing seriously? What happens if he doesn’t pay? Although I never got satisfactory answers, I still liked this story because it brought up a lot of great questions. What would my invoice for happiness look like? What happiness “premiums” would I have in my life? The Invoice is very vague on how exactly they calculated happiness into money, but it mentioned things like: family, relationships, poverty, race, gender, sleep, work, art and culture. (The math nerd inside me really wants to make an invoice for myself. Item 1: happiness from reading books, $1 million… Plus it would be a list reflecting on my life-Holy COW I’m geeking out right now I love lists.)
The nameless main character (is he really all of us??? OMG so deep) has a best friend who reminded me of George Castanza – pretty talented at being the bare minimum required to get by. Their lives are actually pretty similar but main character guy manages to be content with his life while his friend isn’t. Which brought up a great discussion in our book club about ambition vs. contentedness. This guy has a very simple life and works at a video rental store (they still exist?) and has no family or even very many relationships. His life is kind of lame. He manages to be grateful and content, but how happy can he honestly be if he has no ambition or purpose in his life? Some people in our book club were impressed with his ability to be happy no matter what life threw at him and others found him selfish and cowardly since he took no risks and made no sacrifices for others. It was a fascinating discussion and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I think you need both. Without ambition in your life, you won’t be happy over the long run and without gratitude in your life every day, you will be miserable in the long-term pursuit of your ambition. That’s just my thoughts. The book actually didn’t discuss ambition at all which I think was a missed opportunity on exploring different sides of happiness.
Still, if you can get over the fact that this guy is a loser and buy into the fact that he would even be willing to pay for his happiness, I think the book had a great message. Being completely happy costs nothing.
Book Review of The Invoice on a Post-it