Book Review: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

revised fundamentals

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Ben Benjamin needs to get on with his life.  He has lost his wife, his home, his family, and never really had a career in, well, anything.  With his savings dwindling and no job prospects on the horizon, Ben enrolls in a class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving.  Upon completing the course, his first client is Trevor, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Ben soon learns that what he really needs to be a successful caregiver is not outlined in any textbook or taught in night class. But The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is not only about Ben caring for Trevor; Ben also learns to begin living his life again.

Evison does a superb job keeping the reader’s interest piqued.  In the present day, Ben is tasked with taking care of Trevor.  But in alternating chapters, the reader gets glimpses of Ben’s past, of the tragic events which lead up to his present state.  Although the reader knows the loss is devastating, that knowledge doesn’t take away from story, but instead makes the reader continue turning the pages to figure out how and when Ben’s life went horribly astray.

I’m making it sound like the book is a sob story, and while it is dark and thought-provoking, Evison has lightened the mood with sarcasm and sense of humor.  Like one celebrity abhors being compared to anyone else, I’m sure authors are the same way.  Yet, I couldn’t help but think of Jonathan Tropper (which is a huge compliment in my book) when I read Revised Fundamentals.  Some parts of the novel are just laugh out of loud funny, for example,

“All things considered- the fact that she’s currently beholden to the kindness of strangers, one of whom has recently exhibited cannibalistic tendencies, while her fiancé, whose child she’s due to deliver in three weeks is at large in the Montana penal system-Peaches is taking it like a champ and doing her best to smile.” (pg 198).

While then first half of Revised Fundamentals sets the ground work for the relationship between Ben and Trevor, the second half is the somewhat spontaneous road trip taken so that Trevor can visit his father.  I’m sure the road trip with just the two of them would be interesting enough, but the motley crew of characters Trevor and Ben meet along the way add to the adventure, and showcase how much both of them have grown and matured.

I loved this book, and the fact that both Trevor and Ben, although on the surface seem one dimensional and stereotypical, they are complex, flawed, human, and relatable. Although Revised Fundamentals is not a big time commitment, it is definitely a worthwhile one.

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