Being Alive Costs: The Invoice


Imagine you receive an invoice saying you owe some unknown organization 5,700,000 kronor (about $665,000). Clearly, it must be some mistake or a scam, right? But what if it isn’t and you do in fact owe this large sum? How have you acquired such a large bill? Now, imagine that not only is this invoice very real, but it is an invoice for your Experienced Happiness, and you know owe this money to something called World Resources Distribution. As it turns out, everyone has received a similar invoice, of varying amounts based upon their own Experienced Happiness, but somehow you’re debt is double or triple the debt of others.

This is the basic premise of Karlsson’s novel The Invoice. Our narrator, who is never named, receives an invoice for 5,700,000 kronor. Assuming said invoice to be a hoax he ignores the piece of mail until a little while later a new invoice arrives, this time the insane amount plus interest, of course. Upon calling the customer service number provided on the invoice and waiting hours on end to speak with someone, he discovers this invoice is indeed serious and the amount has been calculated based on a survey he filed out absentmindedly in the past to assess his Experienced Happiness.

This was a fun, quick, quirky read. It was a little strange, in a I’m-not-quite-so-what’s-happening way, but I also find it charming at times. The main character is seemingly simple kind of guy who lives alone; a movie buff that works part-time in a video store, and has little family and one close friend. He leads a simple life, so it begs the question, how could he possibly own such a great deal based on his experiences?

The premise of this novel is really quite interesting. People owe a debt based not only on their experiences, but based on how they perceived these experiences. So essentially, those who look on the brighter side and don’t get down as easily having a higher value of life, and therefore their experience costs more. It’s an interesting premise, though at times a little puzzling.

“But how can it amount to so much?” I said, when I could speak again.
“Well,” she said, “being alive costs.”
I said nothing for a while, because I didn’t know what to say.
“But,” I eventually said, “I had no idea it was so expensive. . .”

The main character is a likable guy, and he is part of what makes the story so enjoyable. As a recent-ish college grad, “millennial” who can’t find a decent full time job, some aspects of this book really hit home. For instance, just the premise that “being alive costs” makes my stomach hurt. In The Invoice, every single experience and how it is perceived comes at a price. The stress of that life is unimaginable to me. However, there were some moments in the book that were strangely uplifting. For instance, realizing that even the seemingly small experiences in life matter and/or can mean something, they are all part of the “experience” all a part of the bigger picture. It all sort of came down to a realization that life is what we make it, we each perceive and react to our experiences differently, and that’s sort of what makes life great.




I received a copy of The Invoice from Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review.



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