GOODBYE, VITAMIN by Rachel Khong

From the Back Cover

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 family life more complicated than she’d realized.  Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory.  Her mother, like Ruth, is smarting from a betrayal.  But over the course of a year, the comedy in Ruth’s situation takes hold, gently transforming 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.

My Thoughts

Like my most recent read, CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS, I devoured GOODBYE, VITAMIN in just two days, 190 pages and all.  The novel, witty and endearing, with the subjective style of dark humor that not every reader finds appealing, is Khong’s first, and a tremendous feat for a debut novelist, exploring style and structure in an intelligent manner.  I really enjoyed GOODBYE, VITAMIN and all of its quirks; even with such a sad subject like Alzheimer’s, Khong manages to keep the mood light and funny, and I definitely did not want to say goodbye when I reached the final page.

“A long time ago I stopped wondering why there were so many crazy people.  What surprises me now is that there are so many sane ones.”

Humorous and lighthearted, GOODBYE, VITAMIN follows thirty-year-old Ruth after a tragic break-up with a fiancé she dropped out of college and moved across the country for, as Ruth moves home to help care for her ailing father, whose memory loss only increases as time goes by.  The novel places a heavy emphasis on memory: Ruth’s memories of her ex-fiancé, of her childhood, and of her father as he struggles to hold on to memories of his own.  GOODBYE, VITAMIN is told in small bursts and glimpses, in journal entries that capture the little moments; in that sense, the structure of the novel profoundly compliments the story.

“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.”

Just like the book, I’ll keep my thoughts short and sweet: Rachel Khong’s poignant debut is an expertly written story, both heart-breaking and heart-warming.  With such a unique writing style and sense of humor, I’m not sure all readers will agree with GOODBYE, VITAMIN, but I got along with it splendidly.

Thank you to Picador and Olivia for my copy of GOODBYE, VITAMIN by Rachel Khong.  All thoughts are my own.


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