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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Evison
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (234 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jonathan Evison has crafted a novel of the heart, a novel of unlikely heroes traveling through a grand American landscape, and most of all, a story that offers a profound look into what it takes to truly care for another person. Bursting with energy and filled with moments of absolute beauty, this bighearted and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible surprises as well as its immeasurable rewards.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Essay by Jonathan Evison

"Listen to me: everything you think you know, every relationship you’ve ever taken for granted, every plan or possibility you’ve ever hatched, every conceit or endeavor you’ve ever concocted, can be stripped from you in an instant. Sooner or later, it will happen. So prepare yourself. Be ready not to be ready. Be ready to be brought to your knees and beaten to dust. Because no stable foundation, no act of will, no force of cautious habit will save you from this fact: nothing is indestructible."

— from The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

The weekend of my sister’s sixteenth birthday, she took a road trip with some friends down to Lucerne Valley in the Mojave Desert. For two weeks prior, the trip was a source of debate around our dinner table. My old man reasoned that since she was a responsible kid, got good grades, fed her pets, and honored her curfew, she ought to be allowed to take the trip. My mother reasoned that it was a bad idea. She didn’t trust the other kids. They were a scraggly bunch.

My sister took the trip. She never came home. She was killed in a freak car accident the weekend she turned sixteen years old. The incident, the specifics of which have never been explained satisfactorily by anyone, all but exploded my family. My parents divorced after twenty-five years of marriage. I lost what amounted to my primary caregiver. My oldest brother was deeply depressed for two years afterward and was really never the same in some fundamental way. To this day, my family is still feeling the shockwaves. I’m still walking around with this sister-shaped hole in my heart. After a few beers, my brother will still lament the fact that he owed her seven bucks at the time of the accident. The seven bucks had been a point of contention involving the sale of a ten-speed bike. They argued fiercely about the money up until the day she left. At fifty-seven, my brother is still trying to pay that debt.

There are holes in our lives that can never be filled--not really, not ever. And yet, we have no choice but to try to fill them. We must drive on in the face of debilitating loss, crippling guilt, overwhelming hopelessness. Because to give up is to be dead. I’ve lived with this idea since I was five years old.

Ben Benjamin is a character who has lost virtually everything--his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. Broken, stripped down, stricken, and without hope, Ben is a shadow of his old self. He has been a stay-at-home dad for nearly a decade, so the job market has all but passed him by. With few options, Ben registers for a twenty-eight-hour night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving, where, in the sweltering basement of the Abundant Life Foursquare Church, Ben learns how to insert catheters and avoid liability. He learns about professionalism and how to erect and maintain certain boundaries, how to keep physical and emotional distance between the client and the care provider. He learns that caregiving is just a job. But when Ben finds himself assigned to a tyrannical nineteen-year-old named Trev, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he discovers that the endless mnemonics and service plan checklists presented in his class have done little to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, scared, sexually frustrated adolescent with an ax to grind with the world at large.

When I set out to write this novel, I didn’t envision it as a road novel. I’ve never had a desire to write a road novel--in fact, I was very resistant to the idea. But the characters led me to the road. They left me no choice. They all but dragged me kicking and screaming to the road. It seemed Ben and Trev were always driving around in that van of Trev’s, but they were never getting anywhere. They were both stuck. They needed that van to deliver them somewhere--and I guess I needed it, too. Because that’s where this novel delivered me. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is a story of total collapse, and ultimately, reconstruction. Before it is over, this calamitous journey will cover five states, resulting in one birth, two arrests, and one instance of cannibalism and including a dust storm, a hail storm, several shit storms, and a six-hundred-mile cat-and-mouse pursuit by a mysterious Buick Skylark.

Baggage is collected.

Hearts are won and lost.

Mistakes are forgiven.

Futures are realized.

This book represents nothing less than an emotional catharsis for its author. I wrote this book because I needed to. Because my sister went on a road trip thirty-nine years ago and never came back. And my family has yet to heal from this terrible fact. This novel is about the imperative of getting in that van, because you have no choice but to push yourself and drive on, and keep driving in the face of life’s terrible surprises. It’s about the people and the things you gather along that rough road back to humanity. And in the end, for me, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is the van in which I finally bring my sister home.

Review

'Jonathan Evison is a gifted raconteur with a wicked sense of humor and an unflagging empathy for humankind in all its sad, foible-filled magnificence. In The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, his myriad talents are displayed in full bloom.' Patrick Dewitt, Man Booker shortlisted author of The Sisters Brothers.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1215 KB
  • Print Length: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (May 7, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AFKITW6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,415 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
(234)
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Reading! August 28, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Life is near-constant revision, because even the best-laid plans go awry. Take, for instance, the writing of this review of Jonathan Evison's new novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. I planned to tell you how the novel is part roadtrip buddy comedy, part meditation on parenting, and part blueprint for pulling yourself up by the bootstraps when you hit rock bottom. I hoped to convey how funny and cool and downright irreverent (German Knuckle Cake, anyone?) Evison's writing is. And I was sure I'd leave you with some notion of how important it is to roll with life's punches.

But, instead, this: You should read this book because it'll make you happy. I promise.

(Okay, just kidding. We won't stop there. That'd be silly. And cliché. And probably a little frustrating for you.)

So yes, this novel will make you happy, even though, for the most part, it's a profoundly sad book -- main character Benjamin Benjamin (never trust a guy with two first names, especially when those two first names are the same first name) is down to his last few bucks. His wife Janet is divorcing him after a mysterious "disaster" involving their two children, the story of which Evison weaves in periodically with the "real time" story. And Benjamin, having completed a course in caregiving, is making $9 an hour caring for a 19-year-old, wheelchair-bound dude named Trev who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

A lot of the fun of the novel is the back-and-forth banter between Trev and Ben. They discuss girls ("Look at the turd-cutter on her", e.g.), and watch the Weather Channel, and eat waffles. And every Thursday, they go to the movies.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a bittersweet story ~ 4.5/5 stars August 28, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Thirty-nine year old Ben Benjamin was a husband, a father and a stay-at-home dad, before "the disaster" that took the lives of his two young children. Now estranged from his wife, he is unqualified for most jobs, and hasn't even interviewed for a job in eleven years around the time his daughter Piper was born. A broken man, Ben feels like he has very few options when it comes to jobs, so he decides to register for a twenty-eight-hour program called, "The Fundamentals of Caregiving."

His first job assignment is to care for a nineteen year old young man named Trevor who has Muscular Dystrophy, and their beginnings with one another are rocky to say the least. Trevor is mostly paralyzed and angry with the world about how his life has turned out. His father left him and his mother shortly after he was diagnosed with MD. As a result, Ben quickly realizes that there are certain things that happen in caregiving that you just can't learn about in a short program like the one he attended.

Before long Ben and Trevor do find a rhythm that works for them. The two even embark on a road trip with Trevor's wheelchair van to visit Trevor's sick father, the man who left him when he was very young. Wackiness ensues and the quirky people they meet along the way makes for some colorful and entertaining reading. The road trip is an uplifting experience which allows both Ben and Trevor to make peace with what has happened to them and begin to accept and heal.

This novel is worth reading, in my opinion. Sometimes I find reading about emotionally damaged characters to be extremely difficult, but when humor is infused, which was the case with this novel, the experience can be ultimately uplifting. I was surprised to learn that the author was inspired to write this novel, at least in part, by a tragic situation involving his sister some thirty-nine years earlier when she was just sixteen years old.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
While reading The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, I kept struggling with the reasons why this book didn't seem totally gripping for me, especially since it had received so much acclaim, so many awards (Amazon's Best of 2012, Washington Post notable book). So I had high expectations. But while I found the book to be a pleasant enough read it never rose above "just average" for me.

The basic situation in this book: Benjamin has been on a downward spiral, with his wife pushing him to sign divorce papers and his children lost to him. There has been a major tragedy in his life (those details are best left for readers to discover). In an act of desperation, he takes a class which teaches him the art of caregiving. Then he lands a job looking after Trevor, a young man with muscular dystrophy.

The job is as difficult as one might expect. Ben's pay is minimal. He has to deal with Trevor's mother, a formidable and fiercely protective woman. And Trevor's father? He has been out of the picture for quite some time.

The most painful part of reviewing for me is the obligation to provide my honest reaction to a book while realizing writers work very hard to reach readers. So I don't want to discourage possible readers from giving this book a chance - and it is also worth noting that many other reviewers liked the book.

But here's why I didn't (and I'll also note the strong points of this novel) :

Neither Trevor nor Ben seemed fully fleshed out to me. I wanted to know more about them. I wanted to be intrigued by their interactions and drawn into their lives. I wanted the story to have a lingering impact.

The novel does have some strong points.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I enjoyed this book l. I loved the mention of local places I had been.
Published 5 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Published 2 months ago by Olivia Emery
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This was for my mom and she loved it. I will be reading it next.
Published 3 months ago by JT
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend this book to so many people
Believe the hype. I recommend this book to so many people. Can't wait to see what this author does next.
Published 3 months ago by J. Rekulak
4.0 out of 5 stars Gave me insight into a caregiver's life with a physically ...
Gave me insight into a caregiver's life with a physically impaired patient. Impressed with how he expanded experiences for his patient and at the same time was able to come to some... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Phyllis Hyacinthe
1.0 out of 5 stars The devised supplementals of turd polishing
The most amusing thing about this book was that only a few pages in, I thought to myself this is another of those authors who's probably huge with the NPR crowd, which to me there... Read more
Published 4 months ago by ReasonableGoatPerson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I enjoyed the book!
Published 4 months ago by Jennifer Howdyshell
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
funny, touching, memorable characters.
Published 4 months ago by Douglas G.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This was a great read!
Published 4 months ago by Brock Dubbels
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Just as promised
Published 5 months ago by Laura Lee Kingsbury
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More About the Author

Jonathan Evison is the author of the critically acclaimed novels All About Lulu, and West of Here. He was the recipient of a 2009 Christopher Isherwood Fellowship. He lives on an island in western Washington. He likes rabbits.

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