Julie Christine's Reviews > The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1213607
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: best-of-2015, contemporary-fiction, pacific-northwest, usa-contemporary, read-2015

Humor is such a delicate thing. Handled badly, it’s like those last tiny shards of potato chips at the bottom of the bag—pointless, greasy, annoying reminders that you should have quit while you were ahead. Humor done well is a bite into an ethereal croissant—a pleasure of taste and texture that is both rich and light—an uplifting of the senses. Of course, broad humor and slapstick comedy return us to the open-mouth, gasping hilarity of childhood, when we laughed so hard we farted, and that only made us laugh even more. Humor like that, as an adult, serves as a sort of catharsis, releasing us from the confines of our mind and learned propriety, into our innocent, animal selves.

Jonathan Evison has worked a kind of magic in The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, sprinkling fairy dust of helpless giggles into a story that is essentially a tragedy, offering this reader one of the most humane, tender, believable stories she has read since The World According to Garp, some thirty-five odd years ago.

Ben Benjamin, the narrator, is a pile of regret and sorrow. The brutal turning point of his life is revealed slowly, in short chapters of looking back, but we know that this former stay-at-home-dad is now childless, and his wife has been waiting for over a year for him to sign the divorce papers. In financial and moral dire straits, he takes a 28-hour training course to become a caregiver.

He is hired by Trev, a nineteen-year-old with Duchenne muscular dystrophy—a disease with a painful and early death sentence. Confined to a wheelchair, a prisoner of his twisted limbs, Trev is as horny, moody, and restless as any young man and the two make regular trips to the mall to ogle the girls and make terribly, hilariously inappropriate comments.

Ben, who must attend to Trev’s every need—cleaning, dressing, feeding, entertaining—has again put himself in the role of caregiver and he attempts to bury his past, for if Trev or his no-nonsense mother find out his story, he’d be out of a job he desperately needs. Yet, they know more than they let on. Caring for Trev eases the pain of both men, one trapped by his broken body, the other his broken mind.

While the principle storyline pulls at the heart, the subplots inject a bouncing energy that moves the characters along with wit and bumbling charm. Ben and Trev go on the ultimate buddy adventure: ROAD TRIP. Evison, whose novels always convey such a strong sense of place, takes the two from the Kitsap Peninsula southwest of Seattle, over the mountains to the arid scrabble of eastern Washington, into Montana and Yellowstone, and finally to their destination: Trev’s estranged dad’s place in Salt Lake City. Followed by a mysterious brown Skylark, Ben and Trev give a lift to a street-smart, liberally-pierced runaway, and a young couple just days from becoming parents for the first time. Mayhem accompanies them on the journey, but so does redemption and compassion. Road trips are taken to get out, to flee and escape—but this particular road trip serves to return Ben Benjamin to himself.

The short chapters, the first-person narrative, the moments of humor, both subtle and broad, and Evison’s pitch-perfect dialogue bring the reader into the immediacy of the story, but it is his characters that bring you into its heart. The portrayals are so real, without caricature or sentimentality— you know these people: you work with them, went to high school together, go through their line at the grocery store, look at them in the mirror while you brush your teeth.

Avoiding the literary cleverness and Big Ideas that are fashionable in postmodern American novels, Jonathan Evison delivers a clear-eyed but hopeful story of loss and love, parenting, and friendship. Read, and be redeemed.
39 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

March 4, 2015 – Started Reading
March 4, 2015 – Shelved
March 5, 2015 –
page 100
32.89% "Those books that you know by the end of the first page you're going to love? Yeah. This is one of those books."
March 6, 2015 –
page 100
32.89%
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: best-of-2015
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: pacific-northwest
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: usa-contemporary
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: read-2015
March 6, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Angela Julie, I just finished this one and LOVED it. The scene where Ben recalls the "disaster" was one I won't soon forget. I marvel at Evisons ability to balance the depths of grief with sweetness and humor. I liked "West of Here" but this one was even better.


Julie Christine Angela wrote: "Julie, I just finished this one and LOVED it. The scene where Ben recalls the "disaster" was one I won't soon forget. I marvel at Evisons ability to balance the depths of grief with sweetness and h..."

Oh, I so agree. I really enjoyed West of Here, but Revised has such tenderness and humanity-I'm still basking in the sweetness. I tried "All About Lulu" and it just didn't click, but I'm looking forward to his next: "Harriet Chance".


Nicola Cataldo Jayzuss! This review is as good as the book!! And that's going some, Julie.


Julie Christine Nicola wrote: "Jayzuss! This review is as good as the book!! And that's going some, Julie."

Aw, Nicola, that's amazing. Thank you! Evison is just so great.


Nancy absolutely a wonderful review.


Julie Christine Nancy wrote: "absolutely a wonderful review."

Thank you, Nancy! I love this book. So much.


Nancy Julie wrote: "Nancy wrote: "absolutely a wonderful review."

Thank you, Nancy! I love this book. So much."

I almost didn't buy it, but it was recommended by a friend. After I read what Evison wrote about the book on his webpage, I got sucked in. I'm much more of a mystery and thriller kind of reader. Your review was spot on!


Megan The first paragraph of this review is all I need to add this to my "to read" list!!


Julie Christine Megan wrote: "The first paragraph of this review is all I need to add this to my "to read" list!!"

So freaking cool, Megan- thank you!


back to top