Review: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

August 23, 2012 Algonquin Books, Literary Fiction, Review 2

  • Hardcover:288 pages
  • Publisher:Algonquin Books (August 28, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1616200391
  • Source: Publisher

At thirty-nine, Benjamin Benjamin has nothing. He lost his wife and his children after a horrible tragedy. Desperate for a job, he enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving. In addition to the medical aspect of caregiving, the course taught him how to maintain professionalism by keeping a physical and emotional barrier up when working with a client.

After Ben is assigned to his first client, a nineteen year old boy named Trevor suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he quickly learns that his night course did little to prepare him to deal with the emotions faced by a client with such an illness. Eventually, Ben and Trev form a relationship that quickly crosses the boundaries of what would be acceptable, a close friendship. Together, Ben and Trev embark upon a cross-country van trip to visit Trev’s incapacitated father. Along the way they stop by several “must-see” local attractions. After meeting a few wayward individuals, their journey becomes quite the interesting adventure, including a birth and a several hundred mile pursuit by a Buick Skylark.

Ultimately, however, the trek across the country was more than just a physical journey, but a mental and emotional one for all characters involved. Seeing that he had a purpose in life, that his existence was meaningful, Ben learned to forgive himself for the accident that took his children from him. Trev experiences a sort of rebirth after forming a meaningful and rewarding relationship.  Additionally, the idea that his father, the man that left him and his mother after Trev’s illness got too difficult, was now too incapacitated truly healed the relationship between this father and son.

What truly makes this novel remarkable is the role vehicles have with Ben, one of the central characters. It was a vehicle that completely ruined his life and, years later, it is a vehicle that provides him the mechanism and opportunity to heal.

Evison has created a truly enriching novel filled to the brim with incredibly flawed, emotionally damaged characters. He uses flashbacks to reveal Ben’s history, but the act that truly altered his life isn’t revealed near the end of the novel. The timing of this added an intensity to the novel that compelled the reader to continue on. It wasn’t until Ben was mentally prepared to deal with the tragedy that it was revealed to readers.

What could have potentially been a truly down and depressing novel is instead a humorous, uplifting story filled with rich and quirky characters. Highly recommended.

2 Responses to “Review: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison”

  1. Howard Sherman
    Twitter: howardasherman

    The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving sounds like a deep book and a mighty fine read. It sounds a little too serious for me at some points. The last time I read a book about a man who lost his loved ones it really tore me up. It didn’t help it was Neil Peart’s NON-fiction masterpiece Ghostrider.

  2. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads

    This is a difficult book to describe, but you did a good job. I loved this.