Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Thirty-nine year old Benjamin Benjamin is not living the good life. His wife is hounding him to sign their divorce papers, he hasn't had a "real" job in eleven years (he was a stay at home dad), he's lost both his children in some sort of tragedy, he has no marketable job skills, his apartment is so small and poorly furnished that he refers to it as his "compartment." His car is on its last legs. As the book begins, he has just completed a course in care-giving/home health assistance and embarks on trying to find employment. He gets hired as a care-giver for 19 year old Trevor who suffers from Duschene muscular dystrophy, is confined to a wheelchair and whose male hormones have left him with a huge chip on his shoulder and an obsession about getting a girl.  He is trying desperately to untangle himself from his overbearing mother.

Over the course of several months, Ben and Trev bond as they take trips to the park, go out to eat, watch movies, play video games, go through Trevor's daily hygiene routines, and try to work around Trev's mom's list of do and don'ts. They develop a huge wall map where they trace an imaginary trip to visit imaginary sites. All the while, Trevor is reaching out for his long out-of-the-picture father, and Ben is trying to come to grips with the deaths of his two children, a story which is unfolded slowly over the course of the book in a series of flashbacks.

Finally, Trevor's mom reluctantly agrees to allow them to take a road trip to see Trevor's father in Salt Lake City.  Along the way, they encounter and fold into their family "tent" a melange of zany, lovable, comic-tragic characters representing all of life's exigencies. Trevor finds a girl.  Ben finds another father lamenting the loss of his daughter. Although everything that can go wrong does, opportunities for change and redemption abound.

In the end, Evison gives us relationships that enrich, explores the meaning of friendship and family, helps us root for underdogs and hold our breath in fear and sorrow as each piece of the puzzle slips into place.  Its a glorious book, beautifully written, giving the reader hope, despair, redemption, and love. It is a book that leaves the reader with a smile as the last page is closed.

Title: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
Author: Jonathan Evison
Publisher:Algonquin Books (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 288 pages Genre: literary fiction
Subject: dealing with disabilities, disappointments and tragedies
Setting: Pacific Northwest
Source:Copy from the publisher in conjunction with the Maine Readers Choice Award
Why did I read this book now? Maine Readers Choice Award Long List


  1. I absolutely adored this book. It's so rare to find a novel that can make you feel such a wide range of emotions the way that this one did. I keep trying to put it in the hands of everyone I find that hasn't read it yet!

    1. Shannon...I hear you about getting the word out. I've given it to two different library patrons in the past two weeks...they both loved it, but agreed had I not plunked it into their hands, they probably wouldn't have chosen it? Is it the cover? Is it the title? WHASUP?


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