Publisher: Hogarth. July 12, 2016.
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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.-Goodreads
This tiny book is so sweet and charming, and that's coming from somebody who thinks horror movies pussyfoot around opportunities to kill off child characters. So it's not cheesy, dopey, or annoying in any way. It was just a very nice time to read. Jonas Karlsson wrote one of my favorite funny books, The Room, and while The Invoice isn't hilarious, it is equally quirky. And equally focused on the ridiculousness of bureaucracy. Karlsson knows what he likes. Or, I guess, hates in this case.
Our unnamed protagonist is confronted with a 5,700,000 Swedish kronor (~658,000 USD) invoice, which he soon learns is the cost of all the happiness he's experienced in his life. Despite being a guy with very little going on in his life -- a part time video store job, no financial responsibilities, little family, one friend -- he has one of the largest bills in the country. We follow him as he tries to find out why his invoice is so enormous. He calls up the agency and speaks with a representative on the phone to try to figure out what happened, and he finds himself getting closer and closer to the woman on the other end.
With some reluctance, I had to admit that I was pretty happy with my life.
This book was a very quick, fun read. At first, our hero seems like a pretty miserable, lazy nobody, but he has a spectacular ability to appreciate the little things in life. As we learn more about the events that have taken place in his life, both the main character and the reader learn a lot about perspective. His capacity for contentment is both admirable and inspiring, at least to somebody like me who is all sorts of restless.
There are some really excellent moments in this book. A couple of them near the end gave me shivers. Some of it felt repetitive, however, and I feel like The Invoice could have stood to be shorter than it was. All in all, though, I had fun reading it.