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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

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Overview

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 taught in the basement of a local church. There Ben is instructed in the art of inserting catheters and avoiding liability, about professionalism, and how to keep physical and emotional distance between client and provider. But when Ben is assigned to nineteen-year-old Trev, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy,...

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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel

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Overview

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 taught in the basement of a local church. There Ben is instructed in the art of inserting catheters and avoiding liability, about professionalism, and how to keep physical and emotional distance between client and provider. But when Ben is assigned to nineteen-year-old Trev, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he 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. As they embark on a wild road trip across the American West to visit Trev’s ailing father, a new camaraderie replaces the traditional boundary between patient and caregiver.
 
 Bursting with energy, this big-hearted, soulful, and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible surprises and the heart’s uncanny capacity to mend and become whole again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
To avoid facing his past, Benjamin Benjamin sets to helping others as a caregiver.After taking a class called the Fundamentals of Caregiving at a local church, his first job lands him with Trevor, a 19-year-old with advanced muscular dystrophy who has disengaged from the world. But a road trip and a series of exploits find the two men returning to worlds they thought were lost. Narrator Jeff Woodman’s portrayal of Benjamin captures his contradicting self-awareness and self-deceit as well as his vulnerabilities. But his rendition of Trevor’s voice is the most impressive.Woodman avoids the pitfall of trying to portray the character’s disability, instead using a minimalist approach that captures Trevor’s essence. Additionally, Woodman lends the supporting cast distinct, vibrant voices and provides narration that will keep listeners engaged until the very end. An Algonquin hardcover. (Aug.)
Under My Apple Tree
“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. . . . Evison once worked as a personal care attendant himself, and this novel is dedicated to one of his clients. The experience seems to have taught him just what true caregiving is all about, and that insight along with his plaintive sense of humor had me alternately chuckling and wiping my eyes through much of his book.”
—The Washington Post
The New Yorker
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving weaves back and forth in time, propelling toward Ben’s uncertain future as well as reversing into his past. Evison is a steady driver, and both stories are equally compelling.”
—The New York Times
Booklist
“The book manages to be both an entertaining picaresque and a moving story of redemption.”
The New Yorker
From the Publisher
“Narration that will keep listeners engaged until the very end.”
Publishers Weekly

“Woodman shines in his voicing of a dauntingly large and varied cast of characters . . . including a goth girl whose adolescent angst is perfectly nailed by Woodman. Both humorous and poignant, this will please listeners familiar with Evison’s fiction.”
Booklist

The New York Times
“An inspiring tale on life’s surprises and the heart’s capacity to mend, filled with a perfect blend of humor and sadness.”
Express Milwaukee
The Boston Globe
“Evison injects some levity . . . blending humor, sharp dialog, and a rich and detailed back-story into a sympathetic, bittersweet novel. . . . A worthy purchase.”
Library Journal
The Seattle Times
“Woodman skillfully navigates between the humor and sadness of the story and neatly telegraphs Ben and Trev’s complex feelings of resignation mixed with hope for something better. Listeners will be captivated by Woodman’s performance of this wonderful novel about finding one’s way in an unfair world.”
AudioFile [Earphones Award Winner]
Fiction Writers Review
“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
BookPage
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving deals with sorrow and disability and all the things that can go wrong with life. But mostly 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
Express Milwaukee
“With prose as snappy as a bumper sticker, a pace like a wide-open interstate, and a heart as big as a van, . . . Jonathan Evison rides again.”
Fiction Writers Review
The Washington Post
“Evison has the enviable ability to weave together a funny, tragic and very entertaining story.”
BookPage
The New York Times
…poignant yet improbably funny…Mr. Evison doesn't milk the implicit pathos in both Ben's and Trev's situations. Their lives are dire but don't feel that way; this author has really got a way with losers…Mr. Evison's preceding book, West of Here, was much longer than this one. Part of it dealt with settlers of Washington's Pacific Coast in the late 19th century; part described their less purposeful 21st-century descendants. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving concentrates on the latter type, lost souls of every stripe. Whatever the book lacks in historical sweep is more than matched by powerful undercurrents of loss.
—Janet Maslin
The New York Times Book Review
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving weaves back and forth in time, propelling toward Ben's uncertain future as well as reversing into his past. Evison is a steady driver, and both stories are equally compelling…While there is enough comedy…to dim the lights and butter the popcorn, Ben's plight rings terribly true…Evison…has brought to the page a yearning, damaged, struggling Ben Benjamin, father now to no one but beloved by all who find themselves in his care.
—Jennifer Gilmore
The Washington Post
[Ben's] not perfect, and neither is this novel, but 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. Among his several odd jobs, Evison once worked as a personal care attendant himself, and this novel is dedicated to one of his clients. The experience seems to have taught him just what true caregiving is all about, and that insight along with his plaintive sense of humor had me alternately chuckling and wiping my eyes through much of his book.
—Ron Charles
Publishers Weekly
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. (Aug. 28)
Library Journal
Evison's follow up to West of Here is a personal, focused work rather than a sweeping epic. Benjamin Benjamin Jr. is a former stay-at-home dad. His two young children died in a tragic accident after which his wife left him. Broke and grieving, Ben signs up for a caregiver class and lands a job tending Trev, a teenage boy with muscular dystrophy. The unlikely duo set out on a cross-country road trip to take in as many bizarre highway attractions as possible en route to visiting Trev's estranged father. They pick up Dot, a runaway, and Peaches, a pregnant farm girl, and learn about forgiveness, especially about forgiving oneself. VERDICT Evison injects some levity with Trev's horny commentary and Ben's wry retorts, blending humor, sharp dialog, and a rich and detailed backstory into a sympathetic, bittersweet novel. This is one of the more successful entries in the "Sad Dad Lit" subgenre (think Thelma Adams's Playdate, Greg Olear's Fathermucker, or Emily Jane Miller's Brand New Human Being). A worthy purchase. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/12; this title was highlighted at the Fourth Annual Shout & Share at BookExpo America 2012 ow.ly/buYSD—Ed.]—Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA
Kirkus Reviews
Evison manages to find considerable humor in this plaintive story of care giving and receiving. Narrator Ben Benjamin is greatly in need of caregiving himself, so he doesn't have much left for Trev, his adolescent charge, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair. Ben has learned everything about his job from The Fundamentals of Caregiving, a book generous in providing acronyms meant to be helpful (for example, ALOHA: Ask Listen Observe Help Ask again) but scanty in providing practical advice. He takes the job of caring for Trev because--well, frankly because he's broke, he's responsible for a family tragedy, and his wife has left him, so the minimum wage job has a desperate appeal. Ben finds that providing care for Trev helps give his life some purpose. Trev's father, Bob, had deserted his family years before, shortly after the diagnosis of MD was made, but he's now making some attempts to get back in touch with his son, though Trev resolutely rebuffs him. Then Elsa, Trev's mother, finds out that Bob has been in a car accident in Salt Lake City, and against her wishes, Ben decides to take Trev on a road trip to see him, a trip that becomes more an end in itself than a means to see how Bob is doing. Along the way from Oregon to Utah they pass through towns, pick up Dot, a punky but goodhearted girl, befriend Elton and his acutely pregnant girlfriend, Peaches, and are followed by a mysterious man in a Skylark. Ben expects the mystery man to be a private detective his estranged wife has set on him, but he turns out to be someone quite different. A lively narrative with a poignant core and quirky, lonely characters.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611748994
  • Publisher: HighBridge Company
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged; 9.25 hours
  • Pages: 555
  • Product dimensions: 5.13 (w) x 5.94 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Evison lives on an island on the coast of Washington State. His first novel, All About Lulu, won the Washington State Book Award. This is his third novel.

JEFF WOODMAN originated the title role in Tennessee Williams' "The Notebook of Trigorin" and won the san Francisco Critics' circle Award for his performance in "an Ideal Husband" In addition to numerous Off-Broadway credits, his TV appearances include Law & Order, Sex and the City, and Cosby. His more than 200 audiobook narrations has earned him numerous awards, including a People magazine "Annual Top Five" citation and a spot in AudioFile magazine's "Top Fifty Voices of the Century".

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I really tried to like this story, especially having read so man

    I really tried to like this story, especially having read so many positive reviews on Amazon. But I just couldn't get with it. Firstly I tried to like Benjamin Benjamin Jr., the main character but seemed to find him too much of a loser. He spent many years with no ambition and then when his funds are running out, he takes a job as the caregiver to Trev, a boy with a degenerative disease at virtually minimal pay.

    Benjamin and Trev like to make fun of other people and ogle women at the mall. They use expressions that were hard to understand even knowing the reference like "I would like to give her a Gaylord Perry." Now I know that Mr. Perry was a baseball player known for putting foreign substances on baseballs but I couldn't figure out what it meant in the context of the story. Benjamin's and Trev's conversations are rife with expressions like this.

    I did find slightly interesting the map that the two put together of interesting places to visit and Trev's weird encounter with the lady "acrobat." Things like this kept me from rating this book lower but I still struggled through this book and found it dragged in many places. Overall I give it three stars.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2012

    Fantastic

    I found this book to be thoroughly enjoyable. The main character was just the right mix of unlikeable and yet redeemable. I found myself rooting for him. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a story about a man trying to pick up the pieces of a life that he was solely responsible for derailing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2012

    Love it

    Well written and a good message

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    A compelling and fun read!

    With each new novel, Jonathan Evison proves that he can’t be pigeonholed as an author. You want an atypical bildungsroman? Read his All About Lulu. Looking for an ambitious historical epic? Read his West of Here. You want a buddy, road trip story that transcends that clichéd description? Read his new novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. Evison writes with humor, honesty, and a snappy cadence that propels you through the story even when you’d like to take your time relishing his rich characterizations and vibrant landscapes. Each of his characters is trapped by circumstances that are seemingly beyond their control but the joy of this novel is to see how they all begin to wrestle that control back from the beyond, little by little. They are all ready for it, they just have to find the courage and tenacity to do it. Evison reveals a true knack for writing these wayward, flawed characters in such a way that makes them completely relatable and worth rooting for. He writes with depth and heart and even a little bravado, showing the beauty in tragedy, the humor in life, and the power of connection.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 15, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Benjamin Benjamin is in the middle of a typical mid-life crisis.

    Benjamin Benjamin is in the middle of a typical mid-life crisis. Hoping to make his life change, he decides to take a class on how to be a perfect caregiver and is assigned to teenage Trevor, who suffers from muscular dystrophy. Benjamin begins to realize that life alone is the teacher and sadly there is no class to prepare him for the lesson. The road trip to visit Benjamin’s past will help change and strengthen his and Trevor’s relationship, with several hilarious bumps along the way.

    Jonathan Evison weaves an emotional tale of finding one’s self, while facing the past and caring for someone who uses humor as a way of coping. Readers will find themselves laughing numerous times and they will impatiently read each page as they search for the truth behind Ben’s past. Flashbacks and quick-witted responses will keep readers on their toes. Recommended for fans of emotional life stories with light-hearted twists, who are willing to take a road trip called life.

    Notes:
    This review was written for My Sister's Books.
    This review was originally posted on Ariesgrl Book Reviews.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I wanted to like this more but the characters felt a little one

    I wanted to like this more but the characters felt a little one dimensional to me until the last quarter of the book. If the first 3/4 would have had the same emotional punch as the remainder, I would have given it 4 stars. I had trouble connecting with Ben until more of his past was let out.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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