Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: July 11th, 2017
Page Count: 208 (Hardcover)
From the Jacket:
Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.
Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life.
When I initially read the jacket for this book, I considered not starting it. Expecting a sad, despairing narrative about a young woman watching her father slowly decline from Alzheimer’s disease, I was very pleasantly surprised to find Goodbye, Vitamin really isn’t about that at all. Ruth does in fact, return home to care for her father, Howard, who is losing his memory. However, the plot focuses on a year they spend together, while Khong expertly weaves in details from the past. It’s about love and the complexities and dysfunction of families. Written in journal entires that flow together almost like a stream of consciousness, it is impossible to put down. Khong’s prose is so stark and tender and I think it’s the simplicity of it that pulled me in.
This story is so quirky and bittersweet. Ruth’s father keeps a journal of all of the things she says to him as a young child, and these tidbits were my favorite part. The limitless imagination of children is perfectly rendered in these entries and they pulled mightily at my heart strings. Each one a reminder of how fleeting the time is when children are young and full of wonder. Despite being exhausting, and often feeling like each day is just surviving to the end of it, it made me pause and remember to cherish these moments with them.
Final Thoughts: This book is heartwarming and tender and quirky and even funny, despite the dark subject matter. The overall impression is very bittersweet, but I still enjoyed it immensely. It’s a quick read and the writing is truly terrific. I will definitely pick up more by this author in the future.
Favorite Characters: The Howard who writes the journal entries
If I were you is something I’ve never really understood. Why say, “If I were you”? Why say, “If I were you,” when the problem is you’re not me? I wish people would say, “Since I am me, ” followed by whatever advice it is they have.
What imperfect carriers of love we are, and what imperfect givers. That the reasons we can care for one another can have nothing to do with the person cared for. That it has only to do with who we were around that person — what we felt about that person.
At one point Dad emerges, shirtless, into the kitchen, to brew himself coffee. I get my nipples from him, I realize, alarmed.