The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
|Set in||Pacific Northwest|
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is the third novel by American author Jonathan Evison, published in 2012. The novel's plot revolves around the relationship between the titular caregiver, Ben Benjamin, and his teenage charge, Trevor Conklin, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The two take a road trip together and encounter a variety of characters and roadside attractions along their way to their ultimate destination, Trevor's father Bob. Evison dedicated the book to one of his patients, Case Levenson, a man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, citing their experience together as a major inspiration for the novel. Evison also credits a family tragedy with inspiring the road trip sequence. A film based on the book was released in June 2016.
The book (and adapted film) follows a 39 year old man who has experienced personal tragedy and is currently climbing out of depression and grief. His estranged wife has been waiting for months for him to sign divorce papers. He has lost his work and his house. After being trained as a care-giver, his first job is for a boy with muscular dystrophy, 19-year-old Trev. The disease has taken the movement of Trev's body, but definitely not the spark from his brain and quick, silver-tongued wit. The two find a match in each other, supporting each other in quiet or razzing ways, and ultimately pushing each other to move beyond their deep-rooted and insurmountable sorrows (one from loss, the other from the impending loss of his life from a disease). The strong theme is about love and connection. In the end, this is a story about valuing life and how fragile life is, how precious it is, and how — despite the inevitability of death — the path to that end (including love) is what matters.
Jennifer Gilmore, author of "The Mothers" novel (2013) wrote a Sunday Book Review in the New York Times about this third novel from Evison. Gilmore highlights the road trip, stating "... the journey is reckless and wild, infused with the sad rage that makes good comedy great. Ben’s powers of observation make this trip unforgettable."
Ron Charles reviewed the novel for the Washington Post. Charles stated the novel is "not perfect" but is "moving and funny" and pointed out how one of Evison's own odd jobs as a caregiver lent him insight into telling "a story about someone caring for a disabled person that isn’t gauzed in sentimentality or bitterness."
Other critics were generally positive, with The A.V. Club's Phil Dyess-Nugent praising Evison's comic ability, saying that "[Evison] can be funny like nobody else, about things few other writers would risk laughing about," although Jennifer Weiner, writing for NPR, found the banter between Trevor and Ben to be distracting, giving the caveat that "when Evison's not trotting out his Urban Dictionary-level expertise about increasingly absurd sex acts, the writing can be lovely".
- Kelly, Leslie (9 March 2016). "A friendship that will outlast the fame". North Kitsap Herald. Retrieved 4 August 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Evison, Jonathan (2012). "Filling Holes". Algonquin Books. Retrieved 4 August 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Gilmore, Jennifer (7 September 2012). "Assisted Living: 'The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving' by Jonathan Evison". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Charles, Ron (11 September 2012). "Book World: 'Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving' is a journey back to life". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 August 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Dyess-Nugent, Phil (1 October 2012). "Jonathan Evison: The Revised Fundamentals Of Caregiving". The AV Club. Retrieved 4 August 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Weiner, Jennifer (28 August 2012). "Broken Hearts And Dirty Minds In 'Fundamentals'". National Public Radio. Retrieved 4 August 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Evison, Jonathan (2015). Umweg nach Hause. Translated by Bogdan, Isabel. Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch. ISBN 978-3-462-04659-5. Retrieved 5 August 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)