In The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (releasing June 24, 2016 as a Netflix Original Film titled The Fundamentals of Caring, starring Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez), Jonathan Evison, author of the new novel This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! and the New York Times bestseller West of Here, has crafted a novel of the heart, a story of unlikely heroes in a grand American landscape.
For Ben Benjamin, all has been lost--his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. Hoping to find a new direction, he enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving, where he will learn to take care of people with disabilities. He is instructed about professionalism, about how to keep an emotional distance between client and provider, and about the art of inserting catheters while avoiding liability. But when Ben is assigned his first client--a tyrannical nineteen-year-old boy named Trevor, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy--he soon discovers that the endless service checklists have done nothing to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated teenager who has an ax to grind with the whole world.
Over time, the relationship between Ben and Trev, which had begun with mutual misgivings, evolves into a close friendship, and the traditional boundaries between patient and caregiver begin to blur. The bond between them strengthens as they embark on a road trip to visit Trev’s ailing father--a journey rerouted by a series of bizarre roadside attractions that propel them into an impulsive adventure disrupted by one birth, two arrests, a freakish dust storm, and a six-hundred-mile cat-and-mouse pursuit by a mysterious brown Buick Skylark. By the end of that journey, Trev has had his first taste of love, and Ben has found a new reason to love life.
Bursting with energy and filled with moments of absolute beauty, this big-hearted and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible surprises as well as what it takes to truly care for another human being.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I was compelled to add my thoughts after reading the critical review posted. I disagree with that review, and sincerely hope it does not prevent others from reading this book. I've worked with young adults experiencing similiar disabilities as Trev; often articulate and witty, but comfortable in only in very narrow confines. This character's depiction is honest. We are permitted to laugh with Trev as he leaves that comfort zone.
Ben is a terrific wreck. Tragedy defines him, yet he presses on, persistently devastated by overwhelming sorrow, accurately accessing his life, but unable to release what might have been.
Together these men develop mutual reliance that works perfectly with an American road trip story. And I don't recall the F word being used for cheap effect, if at all, leading me to believe the previous reviewer read a different book.
I loved it
Very good, fast read book. You won't regret it.
Ignore the words of praise for this book!
Words cannot truly express just how poorly conceived this book is. Filled with unnecessary curse words (mostly, just the f-word), it leads one to believe that the author has an amazingly limited vocabulary. The more that I think about this book, the worse it is. The story falls flat, and the main character is a huge loser. The author fails to make the character seem real. Facts are skewed, and nothing really makes sense.
Don't waste your time with this book. I'm glad that I didn't have to pay for it!