The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison: Our Book of the Week
According to the people who track these things, there are roughly 170,000 new books published each year in the United States -- an alarming percentage of which arrive, unbidden, at the L.A. Weekly office.
Each week, we'll offer a snapshot of a newish book that's caught our attention. Just as there's a lid for every crooked pot, surely, there's a reader for every one of these 170,000 books. This is our attempt to play matchmaker.
THE BOOK: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012)
THE WRITER: Jonathan Evison, 40-something novelist who lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington
THE BACKSTORY: Evison was a part of the Seattle punk band March of Crimes, where he played with Stone Gossard and Ben Shepherd. Gossard went on to Pearl Jam. Shepherd went on to Soundgarden. Evison became a novelist, which might be tragic if not for the fact that his novels are really good.
THE STORY: Sad sack Benjamin Benjamin takes a job as caregiver to 19-year-old Trev, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. After Benjamin gets fired, he and Trev go on the world's most unlikely roadtrip -- and Benjamin comes to terms with his life.
DON'T READ THIS IF ... You can't stand a little sadness. For all its dark humor, the beginning third is unrelentingly depressing, and as for the big reveal near the end -- well, you see it coming for miles, and it still breaks your heart.
READ THIS IF ... You like your novels smart and bittersweet and attuned to the absurdity of life -- Evison's book is the literary version of a good grunge song, not a power rock ballad. (It's also downright funny, which is not something generally associated with grunge; our metaphor, apparently, only goes so far.) Bonus points if you've ever dreamed that roadtripping through the West and pitching up a hitchhiker or two just might change your life.
A KEY QUOTE ... I was broke when duty called me to minister to those less fortunate than myself, so maybe I'm no Florence Nightingale. And maybe in light of all that happened with Piper and Jodi, I'm not qualified to care for anybody. The fact is, at thirty-nine, with a gap in my employment history spanning the better part of the technological revolution, I'm not qualified to do much anymore.
Is it cheating if we chose the opening paragraph? We're not lazy, honest: We just thought it was a really great opening. We'll try to be more creative next week.