by Jonathan Evison, Algonquin Books, August 2012
This is the story of Ben Benjamin, a 39 year old broken man. He has lost everything, his home, his marriage, his job and often his will to live. Ben, long a stay-at-home dad who hasn’t been in the work force for 11 years has taken a home nursing course (hence the title) and is employed as a caregiver to Trevor a 19 year old who has late-stage Duchene muscular dystrophy. Ben and Trevor develop an unusual but effective relationship that culminates in a road trip to see Trevor’s father in Las Vegas. As the road trip story unfolds the author intersperses it with a recount of the events leading up to the tragedy that happened some years previously to Ben’s family.
This is a sad book not doubt about it, but oddly it is also funny, warm and ultimately redemptive. I don’t want to give any of the key plot details because I really enjoyed the pace with which the author told this story. You know bad things happen but somehow rolling them out as the author does is important in this story. The writing is very good, no wasted words in the telling of this story. The dialogue between Trevor and Ben seems so natural, it just flows along. During the road trip Ben and Trev pick up a couple of characters who enrich the story, particularly Trev’s love interest.
It would be hard to categorize this book – part road trip tale, part coming of age story, part literary fiction – but it is definitely one I’d recommend. There are enough thought provoking issues in this story that would make it excellent for book club discussions. I read this author’s last book West of Here and wasn’t a big fan, but I really enjoyed this one – just proves you shouldn’t give up too soon on a new author.
I read a copy of this novel provided by the publisher.