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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregivingby Jonathan Evison
Synopses & Reviews
Benjamin Benjamin has lost virtually everything — his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. With few options, Ben enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving, where he is instructed in the art of inserting catheters and avoiding liability, about professionalism, and on how to keep physical and emotional distance between client and provider.
But when Ben is assigned to tyrannical nineteen-year-old Trevor, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he soon discovers that the endless mnemonics and service plan checklists have done little to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated adolescent with an ax to grind with the world at large.
Though begun with mutual misgivings, the relationship between Trev and Ben evolves into a close camaraderie, and the traditional boundaries between patient and caregiver begin to blur as they embark on a road trip to visit Trev's ailing father. A series of must-see roadside attractions divert them into an impulsive adventure interrupted by one birth, two arrests, a freakish dust storm, and a six-hundred-mile cat-and-mouse pursuit by a mysterious brown Buick Skylark.
Bursting with energy, this big-hearted and inspired novel ponders life's terrible surprises and the heart's uncanny capacity to mend.
"Benjamin Benjamin, the narrator of Evison's tragicomic third novel (after West of Here), describes himself as an 'unemployed stay-at-home schlub whose wife gives him an allowance.' He's actually even more pathetic, which is one of the problems with this picaresque: at 39, getting divorced, Benjamin is haunted by an immense unspecified loss and eking out a living as a caregiver to teenage Trevor, who suffers from muscular dystrophy. He's good at the job, his first after a long stint as a full-time dad. He and Trevor construct a map pinpointing odd Americana ('Mystery houses, vortexes, crop circles, and other unexplained phenomenon'), more of an imaginary itinerary, given Trevor's condition; Ben and Trevor do finally end up on the road, however, allowing Evison to demonstrate his considerable comic gifts, despite the grimness of the situation. Flashbacks reveal Ben's past (a wife; two kids) and Evison builds a palpable sense of doom, but Ben's heartbreaking personal tragedy is revealed too late to make a meaningful impact. Still, Evison is a skilled, perceptive writer: one girl Ben and Trevor encounter en route notices them 'with the expert dispassion of the teenage misfit.' 50,000 first printing, 5-city author tour. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Jonathan Evison is a gifted raconteur with a wicked sense of humor and an unflagging empathy for humankind in all its sad, foible-filled magnificence. In The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, his myriad talents are displayed in full bloom." Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers
"The funniest and most tough-minded novel I've read in a long time....This is his best novel yet." Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
"Sly and surprising, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is both a goofy road trip and a mission of atonement. Jonathan Evison has the singular ability to make the heartbreaking seem jaunty." Stewart O'Nan, author of The Odds: A Love Story
"Engaging....The journey is reckless and wild, infused with the sad rage that makes good comedy great....As this carload of misfits moves east, relationships are broken and forged, and Ben recreates a kind of family. This could be horribly clichéd and yet it isn't, because Evison never bows to what we expect from happy endings." Jennifer Gilmore, The New York Times Book Review
"Evison's third and most stealthily powerful novel...[is] a book so poignant yet improbably funny....[An] adventurous story." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"A journey back to life...bittersweet....It's moving and funny, and, my God, how refreshing it is to read a story about someone caring for a disabled person that isn't gauzed in sentimentality or bitterness." Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Evison's prose is replete with his gifts for witty imagery and turns of phrase....With its extremely cinematic plot and collection of quirky scenes, the novel might remind you of Little Miss Sunshine meets Rain Man....The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is even-keeled, big-hearted, and very funny, and full of hope. Through Ben, missteps are made, and human foibles are exposed. But we also glimpse that distant shore of hard-earned redemption. For that, Evison's novel is worth the voyage." The Boston Globe
"It's a story of heartbreak and healing....This is a novel with a terrific sense of the relationship between comedy and tragedy." The Daily Beast
"Evison has given us a salty-sweet story about absorbing those hits and taking a risk to reach beyond them. What a great ride." The Seattle Times
"Evison has an easy fluidity with the dashed dreams and disappointments of characters who don't ask for pity." Seattle Weekly
"The comic novel may be the hardest work of fiction to pull off well....The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is a showcase of what makes a good one tick: Characters just a touch disconnected from reality, a prevailing sense of life's absurdity and a handful of rude jokes....Evison proves that some of the best comedy emerges from lives that have jumped the rails." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A warm, funny look at recovering from tragedy." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"A zany road trip from grief to grace....[A] sometimes funny, sometimes slapstick, big-hearted novel." The Oregonian
"Luminously moving and very funny." The Rumpus
"Smart and bittersweet and attuned to the absurdity of life — Evison's book is the literary version of a good grunge song." LA Weekly
"Let's not mince words. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is far and away the best novel Jonathan Evison has ever written....It's funny, moving, and lively, the sort of novel that will appeal to avid readers and to people who only manage to read one or two books in a year. The secret, the trick to the book, is in the voice of the narrator, which feels so true that it simply can't be denied." The Stranger
"Evison manages to find considerable humor in this plaintive story of care giving and receiving....A lively narrative with a poignant core and quirky, lonely characters." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Jonathan Evison is the author of All About Lulu, which won the Washington State Book Award. In 2009, he was the recipient of a Richard Buckley Fellowship from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. He lives on an island in Western Washington.
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