The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

4.5 11
by Jonathan Evison
     
 

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Jonathan Evison has crafted a novel of the heart, a novel of unlikely heroes traveling through a grand American landscape, and most of all, a story that offers a profound look into what it takes to truly care for another person. Bursting with energy and filled with moments of absolute beauty, this bighearted and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible

Overview

Jonathan Evison has crafted a novel of the heart, a novel of unlikely heroes traveling through a grand American landscape, and most of all, a story that offers a profound look into what it takes to truly care for another person. Bursting with energy and filled with moments of absolute beauty, this bighearted and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible surprises as well as its immeasurable rewards.

Editorial Reviews

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)
From the Publisher
Washington Post Notable Works of Fiction for 2012
Kansas City Star Top 100 Books of 2012

Seattle Times’ 25 Best Books of 2012

Editors’ Pick for Amazon’s Best of 2012 list


"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 cathartic novel that will leave readers breathing a heavy sigh of pleasurable release. Its offensive at times, witty, funny, and an excellent example of modern realism . . . Evison offers readers bittersweet highs and tragic lows while illuminating all the sticky, messy passages in between. No matter what you’re in the mood for, pick up this little gem. In less than 300 pages, the weight of the world will feel a little lighter on your shoulders in the aftershock of Ben’s tragedy. Your prospects may seem brighter next to Trev’s grim future. Your eyes will sting from laughter at the dark, unforgiving humor. You won’t have any regrets.”—The Missourian

“A zany road trip from grief to grace . . . [A] sometimes funny, sometimes slapstick, big-hearted novel.”—The Oregonian

“Evison's brand of feel-good storytelling comes from life's trenches, where hope and humor must endure in the face of despair.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Evison has developed the command of craft and tightness of focus necessary to animate quirky characters and outlandish set pieces.”—Philadelphia City Paper

“I think you're going to be hearing a lot about Jonathan Evison's new novel. Reviews will mention the construction of the book (alternating time periods, brilliantly handled), the secondary characters (all vivid), the road trip (crazy and transforming), and the perfect blend of humor and sadness. One of Evison's gifts is creating characters that are easy to care about . . . It’s a thought-provoking story about two men trying to do their best in a world that doesn't play fair.”—Beth Fish Reads


"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 (“Book of the Week” selection)


"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


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.
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
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

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616200398
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
08/28/2012
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“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

Meet the Author

Jonathan Evison is the author of four novels, including This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, West of Here, and All About Lulu. He lives on the coast of Washington State with his wife and two children.

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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and a good message
Redheaded-Janeite More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 10 days ago
Wph.mlehz
pupper More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book and was surprised with the ending.
ordinaryreader More than 1 year ago
I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK WITH ITS CLEVER ROAD TRIP FORMAT, ENGAGING NARRATOR, AND ITS THEME OF REDEMPTION.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ariesgrl More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Gk
OurBookAddiction More than 1 year ago
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.