The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison – Fiction Book Review

If you’re searching for A-1 fiction to read in the New Year, begin with award-winning author Jonathan Evison’s 2012 release, “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,” a story of love, loss and hope.

Trevor Conklin, 19, lives with his mother, Elsa, on a small farm in Washington State; and suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease requiring a wheel chair and round-the-clock care. His father, Bob, left when he was 3, two months after Trevor’s diagnosis.

Ben Benjamin, 39, is estranged from his wife Janet, after a horrific accident claimed the lives of their two children, Piper and Jodi, over two years ago.

Ben blames himself for the tragedy and it’s forever changed his perspective on life: “Who wants to live in a world where suffering is the only thing that lasts, a place where every single thing that ever meant the world to you can be stripped away in an instant?”

Struggling to regain direction in his life, Ben enrolls in, and graduates from a 28-hour caregiver night course at the Abundant Life Foursquare Church.

Trevor and Ben bond when Ben applies to be Trevor’s daytime caregiver, allowing his mother to work the farm.

Ben aspires to help Trevor transcend his life routine, which includes flaxseed waffles, three daily hours of the Weather Channel, and a Thursday matinee at the mall.

A super-enlarged Triple A map, inspired by an “American Back Roads” travel channel show, dons a wall in the Conklin living room. There, Ben places push pins on North American roadside attractions Trevor can only dream of experiencing.

Bob Conklin sporadically travels from Salt Lake City, Utah to see his son; and his un-announced visits upset Elsa and Trevor. Although, deep down, Trevor still loves his father: “Trevor will hoard his advantage until the very end, withholding the one piece of evidence that might ever absolve his father, namely that he still loves him.”

Driving in the desert, Bob crashes, typical of his misfortunate life. Ironically, he temporarily becomes wheelchair-dependent; and Trevor can’t help but gloat.

Trevor and Ben convince Elsa to allow them to travel to check in on Bob; and thus their southwestern USA trip begins.

Vicariously enjoy the duo’s excursion as they visit popular landmarks, including Yellowstone National Park.

Along their journey, Ben and Trevor meet some interesting people, including Dot.

Dot too is a teenager, who’s hitching her way to Denver; and her free-spirited, sassy ways allure Trevor. Despite Trevor’s physical limitations, Dot too finds him attractive. Dot joins Ben and Trevor as they continue their travels.

The newfound trio spots a beatnik Isuzu on the shoulder while traveling through a downpour. There, they befriend a very pregnant young lady named Peaches who’s changing a tire, while her loser boyfriend, Elton, is sitting in the passenger seat smoking a cigarette.

“Elton’s got a bad back,” she explains. “That’s why I’m changing the tire.”

Meeting the young adults en route, Ben naturally wonders what might have been had his children survived.

Adding mystery to the entourage’s journey is a beat-up, brown Skylark with crooked plates, conspicuously trailing their van.

Throughout the story, Evison deftly captures bittersweet moments we’ve all experienced in life.

The phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies to “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving.” Look beyond its busy, psychedelic sleeve to discover a rich narrative, sure to complement your reading in 2013.

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