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Evison's follow up to West of Here is a personal, focused work rather than a sweeping epic. Benjamin Benjamin Jr. is a former stay-at-home dad. His two young children died in a tragic accident after which his wife left him. Broke and grieving, Ben signs up for a caregiver class and lands a job tending Trev, a teenage boy with muscular dystrophy. The unlikely duo set out on a cross-country road trip to take in as many bizarre highway attractions as possible en route to visiting Trev's estranged father. They pick up Dot, a runaway, and Peaches, a pregnant farm girl, and learn about forgiveness, especially about forgiving oneself. VERDICT Evison injects some levity with Trev's horny commentary and Ben's wry retorts, blending humor, sharp dialog, and a rich and detailed backstory into a sympathetic, bittersweet novel. This is one of the more successful entries in the "Sad Dad Lit" subgenre (think Thelma Adams's Playdate, Greg Olear's Fathermucker, or Emily Jane Miller's Brand New Human Being). A worthy purchase. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/12; this title was highlighted at the Fourth Annual Shout & Share at BookExpo America 2012 ow.ly/buYSD-Ed.]-Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Benjamin Benjamin, the narrator of Evison's tragicomic third novel (after West of Here), describes himself as an "unemployed stay-at-home schlub whose wife gives him an allowance." He's actually even more pathetic, which is one of the problems with this picaresque: at 39, getting divorced, Benjamin is haunted by an immense unspecified loss and eking out a living as a caregiver to teenage Trevor, who suffers from muscular dystrophy. He's good at the job, his first after a long stint as a full-time dad. He and Trevor construct a map pinpointing odd Americana ("Mystery houses, vortexes, crop circles, and other unexplained phenomenon"), more of an imaginary itinerary, given Trevor's condition; Ben and Trevor do finally end up on the road, however, allowing Evison to demonstrate his considerable comic gifts, despite the grimness of the situation. Flashbacks reveal Ben's past (a wife; two kids) and Evison builds a palpable sense of doom, but Ben's heartbreaking personal tragedy is revealed too late to make a meaningful impact. Still, Evison is a skilled, perceptive writer: one girl Ben and Trevor encounter en route notices them "with the expert dispassion of the teenage misfit." 50,000 first printing, 5-city author tour. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Aug. 28) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.