By Jonas Karlsson
Genre: Short Story/Contemporary
Goodreads Book Blurb:
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 is charming. It has all of the appeal of a nice cup of tea on a cool day. The small size and simplistic cover feel very appropriate. There is something inviting about this short story. I do not even care that it does not fit well on my bookshelf.
There are only two characters of significance in The Invoice. We have our main, a lovely and simple chap whose name is not mentioned once in the entire book! This is honestly the first time I have ever encountered a nameless protagonist (that I can recall). It is truthfully making this review harder than necessary. He is our narrator and focus, yet he remains anonymous while divulging his entire life. I found this to be strangely engaging and crafty.
He is a pleasant man, who leads a basic life with few needs. He enjoys films, lives alone and likes two scoops of ice cream (one mint and one raspberry). His life is routine, until he receives his invoice, The Invoice. We begin to slowly learn his life history as he questions the rather large bill he has received. While he remained terribly uncomplicated, there was a part of me that continued to want to know a little more.
And then there is Maud. Maud works in customer service for the company, the W.R.D., who has sent our main his invoice. She becomes his primary contact throughout the story. She is just interesting enough with a bit of mystery, and the smallest of tidbits regarding her character are revealed through her chats with our protagonist over the telephone.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story is that we have a nameless main and a faceless secondary, yet they feel genuine.
There is no real “world” construction happening within this story. We have our protagonist’s rather basic and boring apartment, a video store and the W.R.D. building when he goes in for a meeting over his invoice. The author is not building a world, but developing a character.
The Invoice is a distinctive story. We have a gentlemen who receives a large bill that he soon discovers are for services rendered. Those services being his “life experiences”. The total amount he owes is based on the over all satisfaction and happiness he has obtained during his life. It turns out that the amount he owes is astronomical, yet he really has accomplished so little during his 39 years of existence and owns nothing more than a small apartment with some instruments. So how can his amount be this high?
The story follows him as he establishes communication with Maud while calling to question his charges. Eventually the calls between him and Maud increase in frequency and duration as she provides him with her direct number. A sort awkward friendship begins to establish between the two as they discuss all of the various events of his life to determine whether he can receive a deduction. This communication and assessment that occurs is how the story of our nameless protagonist is told.
This is not a great book, in fact there is nothing fantastic occurring here at all. It actually took me two days to read The Invoice because the pace is slow just like the life of our main character. There are no climatic moments or grand finales. Yet, it is the sort of read that just feels pleasant. I found myself enjoying this with my cups of coffee and really could not tell you exactly why I was drawn back each time. I like to refer to these as “coffee table” books. While I would not label this short story as truly inspiring, it does look at life from an innovative perspective. It just feels good. If a book can “comfortable” than this one is. This was a 3.5 star read for me.
*I received this book from Blogging for Books for a fair and unbiased review.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2