The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

Jonathan Evison. Algonquin, $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61620-039-8
Benjamin Benjamin, the narrator of Evison’s tragicomic third novel (after West of Here), describes himself as an “unemployed stay-at-home schlub whose wife gives him an allowance.” He’s actually even more pathetic, which is one of the problems with this picaresque: at 39, getting divorced, Benjamin is haunted by an immense unspecified loss and eking out a living as a caregiver to teenage Trevor, who suffers from muscular dystrophy. He’s good at the job, his first after a long stint as a full-time dad. He and Trevor construct a map pinpointing odd Americana (“Mystery houses, vortexes, crop circles, and other unexplained phenomenon”), more of an imaginary itinerary, given Trevor’s condition; Ben and Trevor do finally end up on the road, however, allowing Evison to demonstrate his considerable comic gifts, despite the grimness of the situation. Flashbacks reveal Ben’s past (a wife; two kids) and Evison builds a palpable sense of doom, but Ben’s heartbreaking personal tragedy is revealed too late to make a meaningful impact. Still, Evison is a skilled, perceptive writer: one girl Ben and Trevor encounter en route notices them “with the expert dispassion of the teenage misfit.” 50,000 first printing, 5-city author tour. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Aug. 28)
Reviewed on: 06/11/2012
Release date: 08/01/2012
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