Review of “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving” by Jonathan Evison

I loved this book. It tells a story that is funny and sad and sweet and horrible in turns; complex enough to impress; and features a protagonist nobody can help but love.

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Benjamin Benjamin (called Ben) is 39; probably suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; and unemployed. After a quick course in “The Fundamentals of Caregiving,” he manages to get a position taking care of 19-year-old Trevor (“Trev”) Conklin, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). DMD is characterized by progressive muscular degeneration and weakness, with a shortened life expectancy. At the time Ben meets Trev, Trev’s body is tied in knots, “twisting his spine and tightening his joints so that his ribs all but rest on his hips now.” He reminds Ben of a pretzel, but one with a healthy imagination. In fact, Trev hasn’t stopped fantasizing about being with girls, and one of the reasons he picks Ben over other interviewees is that he senses a kindred soul in his quest for female connection.

Ben gets fired by Trev’s mom, but ends up taking Trev as a friend on a cross-country trip to see the weird roadside attractions they had been mapping, and to visit Trev’s estranged dad. On the way they pick up a bunch of misfits who also need care, which Ben provides out of his odd obstinate belief in life and love.

The story goes back and forth in time, as we find out how Ben got into his current sorry state, and how Trev, who, though he can’t move hardly at all on his own, is able to lead Ben on a journey to redemption.

This one passage, narrated by Ben, shows you how subtle and expert the author is at packing a world of exposition and emotion into one small paragraph:

“Trev breaks into a grin – not his signature evil genius grin or the uncomfortable tacked-on grin with which he so often greets adversity great or small but a genuine, lighthearted, devil-may-care grin. And something about it makes me want to cry.”

Evaluation: This poignant “guy version” of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You is terrific.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Algonquin Books, a division of Workman Publishing, 2012

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

  1. sandynawrot says:

    I’m back and commenting…sorry for the departure (blame asshole hotels that want to charge $20 a day for Internet). Anyway, I think I’m sold here. It is probably predictable but sounds poignant and touching, which is a good thing.

  2. Rachel says:

    Your review makes me curious, and I’ve had Evison in my mind as someone I should read for some time now. I am not sold on a male “Me Before You” though.

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    I loved Me Before You and want to check this out now!

  4. WOW! I have this one and your comment about this being the “guy version” of Jojo Moyes’…just moved it up on my list.

  5. Ha! Your pithy sum-up of this book is awesome and engenders in me a wish to read the book myself.

  6. Beth F says:

    I loved this too!!

  7. stacybuckeye says:

    This looks good, but I still need to read the girl version!

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