Words

Whatcom READS!

Road tripping with Jonathan Evison

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HOW: Visit http://www.wcls.org (or www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org if you live within Bellingham city limits) to find this book at a library near you. It’s available in a wide variety of formats; pick the one that works best for you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sometimes a book’s title really draws in readers, but the 2017 Whatcom READS! selection, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, sounds more like a textbook for a Bellingham Technical College nursing course than the tragicomic road trip novel that it is. 

Don’t let the title stop you from picking up this worthy tale by Jonathan Evison and joining your friends and neighbors across Whatcom County in discussing the nature of redemption and what it means to truly care for someone.

The novel’s protagonist, 39-year-old Benjamin Benjamin, is a bit of a sad sack. His wife left him. He’s recovering (sort of) from an unnamed disaster. He’s scraping by with credit card cash advances. He’s never had a “real” job and he has turned to professional caregiving as a career of last resort.

When he gets an interview to become a caregiver for a horny teenager named Trev who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he grabs the opportunity, never imagining how the experience will transform him.

Caring for Trev can be physically demanding, mentally numbing (hours and hours of Weather Channel and first-person-shooter video games) and depressing. As you can imagine, Trev doesn’t get out much, and even in his own sorry state, Ben worries that Trev isn’t really living. 

Ben cooks up a project mapping out bizarre roadside attractions of the giant-ball-of-string variety. Before long, Trev hatches his own plan to set out on an actual road trip to visit his estranged father. En route, they pick up Dot, a tough-talking runaway, and Peaches, a pregnant farm girl, and learn about forgiveness, especially about forgiving oneself.
A common mantra for authors is “write what you know” and according to Evison’s website (“First of all, almost everybody calls me Johnny…”) he is a “failure at heart.” Johnny’s had every crappy job there is, just like Ben. He’s also been a professional caregiver, and indeed, this book is dedicated to Case Levenson, a man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy for whom Johnny worked for three years.

Johnny also experienced a devastating family tragedy, which he shares in an author’s note at the end of the book. Tragedy is a central element to Ben’s story. Bit by bit we learn the source of Ben’s profound sadness and guilt. Johnny knows what he’s writing about, and it shows, so that the funny parts seem real, and the sad parts seem real, and the resolution seems real and you’ll cry real tears but also will feel real hope at the end—for the characters, and for humankind.

Readers will have the chance to meet Johnny and learn more about The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving March 9-11, when he visits Whatcom County.

The Whatcom READS! committee, headed by WCLS Adult Programming Coordinator Ann McAllen, has lined up a variety of fascinating programming to round out your appreciation of the tome. 

In addition to being the focus of many book group gatherings throughout Whatcom County leading up to the big event—including this week in Blaine and Bellingham—highlights include a workshop on “Caregiving and the Art of Living During a Prolonged Illness,” a visit from the authors of Weird Washington: Your Travel Guide to Washington’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, and a “Think and Drink” beer tasting with Johnny with special beers created by the North Fork Brewery. Check out the full schedule at http://www.whatcomreads.org, and get reading. 

Christine Perkins is the executive director of the Whatcom County Library System.

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Wednesday
Eat Local Month

10:00am

Join Sustainable Connections for Eat Local Month through September as they support and share the work of local farmers, fishers, ranchers, chefs, restaurateurs and grocers in Whatcom, Skagit,…

Take Out for Peace

10:00am

As part of the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center’s International Day of Peace events, local restaurants will be donating 15 percent of their day’s sales to WPJC. Guud Bowls will participate…

Climate Action Week

10:00am

Join community organizations, businesses and local government Sept. 20-26 for the City of Bellingham’s third annual ALL IN for Climate Action Week. Fun and informative events, activities and…

Bellingham Vegan Restaurant Week

10:00am

Eat your way through town as part of Bellingham Vegan Restaurant Week taking place Monday through Sunday at participating eateries that will be offering at least one plant-based option for…

Incubator Farm Stand

3:00pm

Peruse and purchase farm-fresh produce and meet the folks who grew it at Cloud Mountain Farm Center’s Incubator Farm Stand from 3pm-6pm every Tuesday through Oct. 12 in Everson at 5979…

Piano Nights with Paul Klein and Aaron Guest

6:00pm

Pianist Paul Klein plays from 6pm-8pm every Tuesday in the Tap Room at Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave. From 6pm-8pm Wednesdays, Aaron Guest takes a turn at the piano.

Tuesday Truck Show with Lefty & the Right Hand Band

6:30pm

Attend a Tuesday Truck Show featuring country and classic rock tunes by Lefty & the Right Hand band from 6:30pm-8:30pm in the upcycled truck stage at Mount Vernon’s Farmstrong Brewing, 110…

Lindy at the Leo

6:30pm

B’ham Hop and Pace Trumpet host a weekly “Lindy at the Leo” swing dance from 6:30pm-8pm at the Crystal Ballroom at Hotel Leo, 1224 Cornwall Ave. Show up at 6pm for a drop-in beginner lesson…