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Book review: 'The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving' by Jonathan Evison

Book review: Although the premise of taking a road trip in a handicapped-equipped van with a boy in a wheelchair doesn't usually herald fun and adventure, that's exactly where “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving” goes.
BY BETTY LYTLE Published: September 9, 2012
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“The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving” (Algonquin Books, $23.95) by Jonathan Evison is about an unusual road trip and a mission of atonement.

Ben Benjamin has lost his wife, his children, his home and his livelihood. Hoping to find a new profession, he enrolls in a night class called the Fundamentals of Caregiving. He learns the basic art of inserting catheters as well as how to keep an emotional distance between client and provider.

His first client is a 19-year-old boy named Trevor, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Ben soon learns that checklists and instructions from the class have almost nothing to do with dealing with a stubborn, sexually frustrated teenager who is mad at the whole world.

The relationship between Ben and Trevor has a shaky start but soon evolves to a comfortable level as they begin to understand each other. Their lives settle into a routine until they decide to embark on a road trip across the American West to visit Trevor's father.

They are sidetracked by a series of roadside attractions and an adventure that involves one birth, two arrests, a freakish dust storm and a 600-mile pursuit by a mysterious brown Buick Skylark. By the end of the novel, Ben has found a new reason to live, and Trevor has had his first taste of love.

Although the premise of taking a road trip in a handicapped-equipped van with a boy in a wheelchair doesn't usually herald fun and adventure, that's exactly where the story goes. The author's sense of humor and his obvious empathy for others makes this an unusual and entertaining story.

— Betty Lytle