The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
  • The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
  • The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

4.2 7
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

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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)
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

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

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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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