Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

I am a brand new Jonathan Evison fan.  I don't know that I had ever heard of his other novels All About Lulu and West of Here but I'm going to seek them out now because I didn't want this novel to end.  My husband and I are suckers for road trip novels or movies and I almost missed the image of the van on the the cover of the book which previews the trip taken by Ben Benjamin, a down-and-out caregiver, and his charge, nineteen-year-old Trevor who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.  They are the road's most unlikely traveling pair, but they manage to bond with even less likely pilgrims - Dot who is running from her past, Elton who is running from the law, and Peaches who is ready to deliver her baby at any moment.  Each character has been genuinely screwed by the gods of fortune - Benjamin has his own demons to flee - but there is something about a shared quest to see Old Faithful that propels the spirit.  Although a course in The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving offered at the Abundant Life Foursquare Church behind the Howard Johnson qualified Benjamin to take on the responsibility for Trevor's care, his character cautions the reader that no manual prepares us for life - "Listen to me: everything you think you know, every relationship you've ever taken for granted, every plan of possibility you've ever hatched, every conceit or endeavor you've ever concocted, can be stripped from you in an instant."

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty


Although I received an advance readers copy if this book months ago, I jus got around to reading The Chaperone and I wish I wouldn't have waited. A work of historical fiction, this novel focuses on the Roaring Twenties, the early age of Hollywood, Prohibition, Women's Rights, unwed motherhood, birth control and even homosexuality. The title character is charged with chaperoning teen-aged Louise Brooks (1906-1985) as she travels to New York City to study dance. I knew nothing of Louise Brooks's career in film but have since done some reading and learned about her rise - and fall - as well as the scandals and her writing about it all in Lulu in Hollywood. Still, the central character is the chaperone, Cora Carlisle, whose own personality is transformed by her venture beyond her farm life in Kansas. The fact that she is reading Wharton's The Age of Innocence on the train to New York appropriately foreshadows her own enlightenment.