The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
by Jonathan Evison
(Algonquin Books, $23.95) ISBN 978-1616200398
*****
I am a fan of Jonathanís work and I loved All about LuLu and West of Here, but I think his newest, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving will be added to my all-time favorites reading list. Quirky, poignant, heart-wrenching, hopeful and laugh-out-loud funny, Revised Fundamentals is the story of 39-yr-old Benjamin Benjamin who has more than lost his way. Heís lost everything Ė family, house, and job. Ben decides to enroll in a night class, The Fundamentals of Caregiving, so he can make a living or sort of one for $9/hour. Soon, he is the caregiver for 19-yr-old Trev who is stubborn, funny, has a chip on his shoulder and is living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and who is being raised by his mother after his dad left.

Ben and Trev form a bond and pass the time watching the Weather Channel making a running sexual commentary about the female reporters and marking a giant US map with stops on an imaginary road trip that entails visiting every roadside attraction (like the Biggest Pit in America, and Hobbitville) they can find. All of this is a way of escaping the harsh reality of their situations. And who can blame them? Trev is not sure how long he will survive with MD. We learn about Benís past in snippets, but we know right away Ė some disaster Ė as he calls it Ė has taken away his family and he is refusing to sign divorce papers because he just canít move forward.

This book is about Ben moving forward with his life, Trev moving out of his safe, familiar home comfort zone, and all of this happens on one zany road trip to see Trevís deadbeat dad. There are some lessons that you can only learn from a road trip or a journey. Along the way, they meet and pick up odd characters, other lost souls, and it proves that strangers, when thrown together, see their own lives from another perspective. In this story, Iíd say that everyone who Ben and Trev meet along the way finds something lost, finds acceptance, finds a new path or purpose, and finds forgiveness.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is much more than a zany road trip with quirky characters. Itís a book that will reach into your soul and give you hope for whatever challenges you face within your own world. Knowing a little bit about Jonathan Evisonís background Ė I also know that this is a story that he was compelled to write Ė and I think those tend to be the best kind of stories.

--Lisa Casper


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