A Year in Reading: Ben Fountain

December 3, 2012 | 1 book mentioned 3

coverBenjamin Benjamin is a wise-ass thirty-something who’s lost his wife, house, livelihood, and solvency, all in the wake of an accident that claimed the lives of his two small children, an accident that occurred in the course of an otherwise normal day in his life as a stay-at-home dad. Out of options, he becomes certified as a caregiver, and takes a nine-bucks-an-hour job as helper for Trev, a 19-year-old in the advanced stages of muscular dystrophy. Are you laughing yet? You would be, if you were reading Jonathan Evison’s excellent novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving instead of my thudding description of the premise. Evison is one of the sharpest writers around, and proves it in pretty much every line of this funny, brassy, unflinching tale of a broken boy and his equally broken caregiver. But broken, with these guys, does not mean finished; there’s plenty of life in them yet, and when they set out on a weeklong road trip from Oregon to Salt Lake City, the story does what all good road-trip stories do, it busts wide into the free air of possibility. Nothing sentimental about this book, just good, honest, punch-to-gut emotion, with amazing adventures and revelations along the way. You’ll get your heart broken several times over in this book, and yet, if you’re like me, you’ll end it with a full heart and a heavy sigh, and maybe a smile. How did he do that? Dunno, but I’m damn glad he did.

More from A Year in Reading 2012

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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is the author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction.


  1. I think I’m at a point in my life now in which this book would be a good fit. Thanks for the review. Also, just wanted to say that I’m a faithful reader of The Millions. Love your blog!

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