Saturday, October 27, 2012
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
Ben Benjamin is pretty much at rock bottom at the start of this novel. A tragedy (which unfolds as the book progresses) has shaken his world and taken all that he cared for from his life. Quite literally all that he cared for, because he'd been a stay-at-home dad for his two kids, who, along with his wife, are lost to him. As a last ditch effort to find work, he has completed a course called "The Fundamentals of Caregiving", hoping to find employment as a health care aid/assistant. He ends up working with trev, a 19 year old in the advanced stages Duchenne muscular dystrophy. What Ben finds is that there's a lot a course on caregiving can't prepare you for.
I've been a professional care giver, and a private one as well. There is no course in the world that can prepare you for the realities of the job, but that's pretty much because there's nothing in the world that can prepare you for life. The rocks and rolls that Ben has to navigate, both in his personal life, and with Trev, are enormous (and sometimes enormously humorous, as well as serious and complex.) The author deftly portrayed both those moments where life kicks you in the gut (or arse) as well as those where it pats you on the back. Though Ben's life choices may not be mine, I was fully engaged with his story, and the stories of the characters brought in to his world.
One element of this book which came off surprisingly well was the road trip Trev and Ben take to see Trev's estranged father. It introduced a cast of characters and another level of father/child interactions (there are several portrayed in the book, with varying degrees of pathology or success.) The trip also provided Ben and Trev a vehicle (no pun intended) for exploration of their inner and outer worlds. It could have been the downfall of the book, but instead it enhanced it, and brought readers some great characters and scenes.
The story of Ben's family and his loss is interwoven with that of his life with Trev. Realistic, heartrending, and beautifully written. Though I really loved getting this book as an audio, this is one I almost wish I had in hard copy so that I could provide some of the quotes that I found moving. I will look for more books by Mr Evison.