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Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 11, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of July 2017: Goodbye, Vitamin is a generous and funny novel about love, family, and finding your way. After her father’s Alzheimer’s disease progresses, 30-year old Ruth pulls up stakes and moves home temporarily to help care for him. The timing is fortuitous given that Ruth’s own life has recently gone sideways with a broken engagement and the realization that her life at 30 is not what she’d envisioned. What struck me most about this novel is the influence of memories. How much we depend on them to remind us who we are, where we've been, and all the emotions attached to them. Memories can betray us--when we’re in love we hold snapshots of special moments close, but when our heart is broken all we want is to push them away. Yet there they remain. And within a family, each person's recollection of pivotal moments shapes the dynamic of the whole. Author Rachel Khong finds the humor in painful moments without diluting their importance and brings insight into the absurdity of trying to find balance when even our own minds may send us spinning in circles. Goodbye, Vitamin is a book I truly enjoyed cover-to-cover; it gave me the chance to laugh--a lot--and also see a few things in my own life from a different perspective. Because at the end of the day, as Ruth puts says in the book, “It doesn’t matter who remembers what, I guess, so long as somebody remembers something.”--Seira Wilson
Named a PopSugar summer read
BuzzFeed, "22 Exciting New Books You Need To Read This Summer"
Named one of Coastal Living's “50 Books of Summer”
Elle, "The 24 Best Books to Read This Summer"
Named a Goop summer read
Bustle, "29 New Fiction Books To Read This Summer"
Vanity Fair, "What to Read Right Now"
"Told in a diary format over the year that Ruth spends at home, Goodbye, Vitamin is a quietly brilliant disquisition on family relationships and adulthood, told in prose that is so startling in its spare beauty that I found myself thinking about Khong's turns of phrase for days after I finished reading." -The New York Times Book Review
"A heartwarming book. . .Khong's endearingly quirky novel. . .is filled with whimsical observations, oddball facts. . . [and] some passages evoke the wonderful offbeat sensibility of Ali Smith. . . .Sweet? Yes. Sugarcoated? Perhaps. Saccharine or cloying? Not to me. Hello, Rachel Khong. Kudos for this delectable take on familial devotion and dementia." -NPR
"Heartbreaking but also funny. . . .sparkling. . . .illuminating. . . .[Goodbye, Vitamin is] a novel modeled on real life, where humor often rubs shoulders with pathos, and Ruth’s gift as a narrator is her ability to observe and record it all." -San Francisco Chronicle
"[Goodbye Vitamin is] material for another grueling exploration of loss, and yet, against all odds, Ms. Khong has produced a book that’s whimsical and funny. This is because the author, like her guiding spirit, Lorrie Moore, has a love for the ridiculous in the mundane. . .This sweet-natured novel is about Ruth’s attempts to come to terms with a past her father can no longer remember while still attending to the quirky, fleeting joys of the present. -The Wall Street Journal
"Reading Goodbye, Vitamin. . . .is like tasting an entirely new flavor. At once gut-wrenching and deeply soothing." -Oprah.com, "2 Compulsively Readable Novels"
"Engaging and humorous and deeply touching. . . Khong has created something special." -The Charlotte Observer
"In her tender, well-paced debut novel. . . .Khong writes heartbreaking family drama with ?charm, perfect prose, and deadpan humor."―Booklist, starred review
"Goodbye, Vitamin is one of those rare books that is both devastating and light-hearted, heartfelt and joyful, making it a perfect and unique summer read. Don't miss it."―Isaac Fitzgerald, BuzzFeed
"Tender yet funny in turns, Goodbye, Vitamin offers poignant insight into family, memory, marriage, parenthood, love, and loss."―Jarry Lee, BuzzFeed
"A darkly funny debut novel about love, loss, and heartbreak."―PopSugar
"A good mix of humor and love." ―Elle
"Tragic and funny." ―Entertainment Weekly, "23 Most Anticipated Books of 2017"
“Incredibly poignant . . . Rachel Khong’s first novel sneaks up on you ― just like life . . . and heartbreak. And love.”―Miranda July
"The novel Goodbye,Vitamin builds with humor, with gusto and with such deceptive lightness that the reader wonders, at its devastating end, how in the world the debut author Rachel Khong managed to pull it off so beautifully. The only possible answer is this, that Khong is a magician, and that we are lucky to fall under her spell at the beginning of her brilliant writing life."
―Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies
“Half stand-up comic, half a seismographer of the human heart, Khong writes with vulnerability and penetrating insight, and with a gentle humor that moves you not only to care for her characters, but also to care more fervently for the people in your life.”―Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine
"Rachel Khong's Goodbye, Vitamin is one of the funniest elegiac novels I have ever read, and also one of the gutsiest. It is about so many things―Alzheimer’s, fast food, turning thirty, marriage, Southern California, the digestive habits of jelly fish, the invention of the intermittent windshield wiper―and at the same time it is about only one thing, the really important thing, the imperative, as E. M. Forster long ago urged, to connect. Rarely has gravitas been handled with such lightness of touch, or a sad story told so happily." ―David Leavitt, author of The Indian Clerk and The Lost Language of Cranes
"Hard-ball, laconic, severely, even frighteningly, intimate. To boot, a current of food runs through it, a sophisticated but not snobbish celebration of the empiric integrity of all food. The color of Fanta! You will emerge wanting to take a good snifferoo of a fresh hot cut radish, to study the underside of a saltine, and in the face of depression to be a better and perkier person than you are. This book does it all." ―Padgett Powell, author of Cries for Help, Various and Edisto
“Equal parts clever and tender, Khong's [Goodbye,] Vitamin is a moving meditation on what it means to patient, forgiving, and human.” ―Karolina Waclawiak, author of The Invaders and How to Get into the Twin Palms
“I don’t know how she did it, but Rachel Khong has breathed fresh life into the slacker comedy, the family drama, and the campus novel―in wry, swift, spiky, heartfelt prose that is a joy to read. I have enormous admiration for Goodbye, Vitamin, but more than that, I enjoyed the hell out of reading it.”―Justin Taylor, author of Flings
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Ruth is at a turning point in her life. She has just, to her surprise, become disengaged from her fiancé, and is on her way home to help her mother take care of her father who is in the early throes of dementia. Her father is aware of what is going on and is not happy about this babysitting situation, nor is he happy that he has just been forced out of the university where he has been a well-regarded professor.
Things are prickly at first between the family members. Ruth’s father’s loving diary notes are woven throughout the story, which he kept about Ruth’s words, questions, and curiosity about life while she was growing up. The notes are subtle but show us another side of him and his tenderness toward his daughter. There will be a pivotal point in the book where it all comes together and roles are reversed. It is so tender that you can’t help but fall in love with Ruth and her father.
Ruth is 30 years old and reluctantly returns home to help her mother care for her father who has Alzheimer’s disease. Ruth quit college to follow her former fiancé out east for medical school. She is working in a hospital as a radiology technician when her fiancé dumps her. Once home, she finds that her mother is trying various pseudoscience practices to stave off the advancement of dementia. She has also emotionally checked out of the family. Her father, fired from his job as a history professor due to erratic behavior, has shut himself in his study. Though he has some major character flaws, especially as a husband, Ruth loves her dad and tries to help him. For example, she and his former students trick him into thinking that he is still employed, which ultimately backfires. Her father begins to share with her the notes that he kept while she was growing up. The notes are full of her observations and precocious questions about life. He asks her to start keeping a record of his days so that they can both remember. Ruth’s younger brother Linus also comes home and together the family learns how to cope with a terminal illness.
The novel is told over the course of 13 months, from December to December. It initially starts as a diary, but around July the entries are no longer dated. This book is a very fast read as it is told in snippets of observation and events. However, the writing is sharp, lovely, and humorous. It is best to read slowly and savor the words, puns, and emotions. It takes a skilled writer to respectfully use humor when writing about a serious subject. This book will give you hope as it breaks your heart.
This is billed as a comedy. But at the beginning, it seemed more hopeless than comedic. It made me feel sad and depressed. There are touches of sweetness, and as the book went on, I found flashes of humor.
It’s a weird writing style. Little scenes make up a chapter. It’s more a journal or a love letter to her father. Little bits of insight scattered throughout the pages. There are things Khong gets exactly right. The anger of a spouse about her husband’s past affair, an affair he’s long ago forgotten. Or this quote “You mentioned that there were some things on your mind, but lately you were having trouble getting to them - accessing them. You had the feeling that all the thoughts were in a box covered with tape, and the trouble was there was too much tape and you didn’t have the proper tools to access them - no scissors and no knife - and it was a lot of trouble- every day it was new trouble- trying to find the end of the tape.”
I will admit to liking the book more once I got into it and stopped expecting humor. It’s a bittersweet book, poignant really.
Most recent customer reviews
I loved this book but I was disappointed in the ending. I really didn’t think that they would kill off James so I was taken back.Read more