From Frazer: My summer pick is a new novel by Jonathan Evison called The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. (Disclosure: the publisher is Algonquin, so it’s one I sell.) The novel is not quite out yet, but it should be in the store within a couple of weeks, so if you’re interested, call the store and they’ll be happy to reserve you a copy.
Ben Benjamin has lost everything: his family, his marriage, his livelihood. Before the tragedy that destroys everything he holds dear (which is gradually revealed over the course of the novel), he was a stay-at-home dad, so his employment options are limited. Desperate for money and purpose, he enrolls in a night class called the Fundamentals of Caregiving, and soon lands a job caring for a teenager named Trevor who has advanced muscular dystrophy. After a rocky start, Ben and Trev form a tight friendship, which eventually leads them to embark on a road trip to visit Trev’s ailing father, and, along the way, see odd tourist attractions which Trev is fascinated by. Of course, they meet some misfits along the way, and have various adventures. This is a truly wonderful novel, often very funny (at one point, Ben tries to chase down a mysterious Buick Skylark that has been following them wearing only a Speedo and a neck brace), and also piercingly sad (you’ll need some tissues). Evison doesn’t sentimentalize his characters: at the beginning, neither Ben nor Trevor are particularly sympathetic, but by the end, you’re rooting for them. I’ll finish by quoting a paragraph from the novel, which still gives me chills when I read it:
“Listen to me: everything you think you know, every relationship you’ve ever taken for granted, every plan or possibility you’ve ever hatched, every conceit or endeavor you’ve ever concocted, can be stripped from you in an instant. Sooner or later, it will happen. So prepare yourself. Be ready not to be ready. Be ready to be brought to your knees and beaten to dust. Because no stable foundation, no act of will, no force of cautious habit will save you from this fact: nothing is indestructible.”
Click here to reserve/order a copy.