New Release with Heart and Soul: “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving”
Posted by: Misha Stone
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of hosting a Stewart O’Nan reading. A young man in the audience wearing a rakish hat asked the first question of the evening and it turned out to be Washington author Jonathan Evison. I will forever regret that my colleague Linda and I did not go out for drinks with Evison and O’Nan that night; Evison’s Salon article about the conversation they had over beers only deepened said regret.
Jonathan Evison, author of All About Lulu and West of Here, has a new novel out this week, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, and it is fantastic. It is a novel full of wit, heartache and redemption. Benjamin Benjamin is looking at 40 with few job prospects, a broken marriage and losses that would rip the average human being apart. Benjamin takes a job as a caretaker for Trev, a teenager with muscular dystrophy. Benjamin and Trev trade jocular banter as Benjamin shadowboxes with his past. A roadtrip occurs between these two unlikely partners, a journey that changes them both and helps them move forward.
It’s always hard to sum up a book you enjoyed and while comparisons never do a book justice, sometimes they can enlighten someone else to reasons why they should give it a try. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving made me think of why I loved the film “Rushmore”–it looks like a silly caper of a movie until you see where its secret and deeply sad heart is buried. Evison’s new novel also made me think of writers like Jess Walter and Jonathan Tropper, two authors that also balance comedy and tragedy on a knife edge. I also loved this book because it captures my childhood stomping grounds–the grungy around the edges Kitsap County towns where people still play darts and smoke dope at parties with strangers and a lonely man can turn himself around despite the odds.
Thank you, Jonathan Evison. I know I won’t pass up another opportunity to have beers with you even if you will most surely drink me under the table.