9781616203153_p0_v2_s260x420Reviewed by Jax Kepple

Tragedy has struck Benjamin Benjamin’s life, leaving him to start over from literally nothing. He takes night classes to learn to be a caretaker, and gets a full-time job with Trevor, who is suffering from MD and lives on a horse ranch with his mother. This unlikely duo’s relationship is the heart of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison and helps our hero, Ben, overcome his immense grief and learn to heal and start over.

Trevor likes Ben because Ben can relate to him, and Ben quickly realizes he may be crossing a few lines in the traditional caregiver-patient relationship, including with Trev’s mom. But it doesn’t matter, Trev likes having a friend who pushes his boundaries, plays along with his made up sexual position names and makes him try new things and break out of his routine of eating waffles for breakfast and watching The Weather Channel. Until Ben, propelled by the sadness from his tragic life, rejection from a date, and continued downward spiral, ruins everything by repeatedly making bad choices and not taking care of himself. He starts to regress, drinks way too much, gets into a few fights, and officially hits rock bottom.

A road trip to visit Trev’s father changes everything. Throughout the week they’re away, they encounter false mechanical issues that cause them to take a detour, mysterious cars following them, and deserted roadside motels. They also pick up a punk-rock possible runaway, an ex-con who is on parole and his sweet-as-pie pregnant girlfriend, all of whom are great ancillary characters, and all who help Ben and Trev work through their issues. Dot, Peaches and Elton all have specific issues and problems that help Ben and Trev to realize that they are needed, wanted and that they matter in life.

Evison is truly a talented writer who hooks the reader on the first page with his crisp dialogue, imaginative descriptions (the Midwest desert/flatlands never sounded so beautiful) and a climax taking place at a USA landmark. You can’t help but feel, even after all Ben’s been through, that redemption is possible for anyone. Truly flawless.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.