Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel

by Rachel Khong

Paperback, 2018




Picador (2018), Edition: Reprint, 208 pages


""Incredibly poignant ... Rachel Khong's first novel sneaks up on you -- just like life ... and heartbreak. And love."--Miranda July A few days after Christmas in a small suburb outside of L.A., pairs of a man's pants hang from the trees. The pants belong to Howard Young, a prominent history professor, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Howard's wife, Annie, summons their daughter, Ruth. Freshly disengaged from her fiance and still broken up about it, feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year- old Ruth quits her job, and arrives home to find her parents' situation worse than she'd realized. Her father is erratically lucid and her mother, a devoted and creative cook, sees the sources of memory loss in every pot and pan. But as Howard's condition intensifies, the comedy in Ruth's situation takes hold, gently transforming her grief. She throws herself into caretaking: cooking dementia-fighting meals (a feast of jellyfish!), researching supplements, anything to reignite her father's once-notable memory. And when the university finally lets Howard go, Ruth and one of her father's handsome former students take their efforts to help Howard one step too far. 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 a one's footing in this life"--… (more)


½ (216 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Ruth goes home for Christmas for the first time in three years to find that her father's Alzheimer's has progressed and her mother wants her to move back home and help with his care. Goodbye, Vitamin is about the year Ruth moves back home, reconnecting with her best friend and taking care of her
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father, with a little help from his former grad students.

I see, walking on the other side of the street today, a man with enormous pecs. They look as inflated as popcorn bags right after microwaving.

The phrase "born humans" is what I think of whenever I see someone wildly different from me.

Fetal circulation is different from that of born humans. Fetuses have fine hair all over them that born humans don't have. Fetuses do a thing like breathing that isn't actually breathing--the motions develop their lungs. They take their first breath when they're born and that's when the whole system changes incredibly: unborn to born.

born humans, I think, about the huge pec'ed man. With our functioning circulatory systems. Breathing, walking, having real hair. Just look at us.

Rachel Khong has a light, humorous writing style that pairs surprisingly well with the subject matter. Ruth is a fun person to hang out with as she gets a haircut from her best friend, remembers her childhood with a father who would buy an order of fries for some pigeons and schemes with her father's former students to have him teach a class on campus, while keeping him out of sight of the administration.

And the Alzheimer's is handled with sensitivity and humor. Ruth's Dad is a fully realized character and the family's struggle to accommodate and understand what was happening felt very real.

Later at the farmers' Market, I watch a couple bros sample dates.

"Shit," says one bro, coughing, "I think I'm allergic to this giant raisin!"

"That's not a raisin, Steve," says another bro. "That's a Medjool date."

Born humans, I remind myself.
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LibraryThing member lisapeet
A sweet and lightweight book about family dynamics, early-onset Alzheimer's, late-onset growing up. Khong has a nice light touch with the dark humor, and this is a good example of how gentle irreverence can still wind up to deliver a satisfying emotional punch.
LibraryThing member ninarucker
This was a really sweet and touching story. While Alzheimer's Disease can be a very heavy and sad topic, this novel showed how a family really comes together in the face of illness to support and lean on each other. The scenes between the daughter and father reminded me of similar interactions I
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had with my ailing father and with my grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer's. A very loving look at a heartbreaking disease and the way a family cares for one another.
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LibraryThing member cburnett5
Goodbye, Vitamin tells a heartbreaking story of the impact of Alzheimer’s on both the individual afflicted and those who love that individual. Khong accurately depicts the effects of Alzheimer’s on the brain and how scary those effects are to everyone involved. She also includes some
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interesting information on how the disease was named which I enjoyed learning.

I think my anticipation of how good this book would be may have ended up coloring how I felt about it in the end. From the first time I read about Goodbye, Vitamin I was dying to read it. When I finally got a copy and sat down to read it, I think the book could not meet my high expectations, and several of my recent reads made Goodbye, Vitamin not quite as appealing as it might have been otherwise. I am only including these thoughts because I might have liked the book better in other circumstances.

A recent trend in literature seems to be a scattered, random method of telling a story. Goodbye, Vitamin is written this way as well as Chemistry by Weike Wang. I felt Wang managed this method better, and as a result, I enjoyed that story a bit better. I found Goodbye, Vitamin to be a bit hard to follow and was not always sure what point she was trying to make, but overall I was glad that I read it.

Thanks to LibraryThing and Henry Holt and Company for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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LibraryThing member hammockqueen
Rachel did a good job describing the moments where Alzheimer's shows it's irrational times and then quickly reverts to normalcy.
She showed much love in her caring during this roller coaster existence. A good book to again try and understand this awful disease. I loved the last few pages of
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paragraph remembrances...
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LibraryThing member terran
I highly recommend this book. Ruth goes home for Christmas after her boyfriend moves out. She ends up staying to help her mother cope with her father's advancing Alzheimer's. Although the subject is sad, there is such humor and love in the familial relationships that I couldn't help racing through
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the book.
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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
I received this book through a GoodReads Giveaway.*

A touching and humorous story of a daughter who decides to spend a year caring for her father after he receives an Alzheimer's diagnosis. Sharp and funny, this book flew right by as Ruth spends time with her erratic and sometimes lucid father while
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also reflecting on her own life - she's recently quit her job, ended an engagement, and is struggling over what she should do next. A good, light read and one I'd recommend for anyone with an Alzheimer's sufferer in their family.
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LibraryThing member SamSattler
Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin is about one family’s experience with an illness that regularly devastates families all over the world. Alzheimer’s, perhaps because it does not offer its victims the relief of the quick death that more deadly illnesses provide, is one of the most feared
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diseases that we face today. Rather than a quick way out, its victims can linger for most of a decade with little idea of whom or where they are. It ultimately becomes a toss-up as to who suffers most from Alzheimer’s: the patient or the family members tasked with his care.

The novel recounts the year that thirty-year-old Ruth spends in the care of her history professor father, a man who is steadily losing the fight with Alzheimer’s to maintain his self-identity. Ruth’s parents have been married for decades but close observers would be hard-pressed to define2 theirs as a close relationship. Over the course of his successful teaching career, Howard has more than once strayed from his marriage vows, a fact of which Ruth’s mother is well aware. Even though Howard is not capable of teaching classes at the university now, he can still claim a loyal circle of students and friends from his teaching days who are willing to go out of their way to make Howard’s remaining lucid days as comfortable for him as possible. Howard, though, would be the first to tell them that those days are limited.

Rachel Khong tells her story in short segments (with even shorter sections within each segment) that represent individual days in the year that Ruth spends helping her mother cope with her stricken husband. The book, which runs from one Christmas to the next, uses humor and irony to tell a very sad story in a way that endears each of its main characters to the reader. It begins this way:

Tonight a man found Dad’s pants in a tree that was lit with still-hanging Christmas lights. The stranger called and said, “I have some pants? Belonging to a Howard Young?”

“Well, shit,” I said. I put the phone down to verify that Dad was home and had pants on. He was, and did.

As it turns out, Ruth and her father are both involved in a struggle to figure out just who they are. Ruth’s personal life has taken a turn she never saw coming: her fiancé is a thing of the past, and at thirty, she still has no idea what she wants to do with the rest of her life. Her father is, of course, faced with a more literal struggle to figure out who he is and what his legacy will be. The beauty of Goodbye, Vitamin is that if they are lucky, they still have time to help each other through the process.
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LibraryThing member corinnealyssa
I read this book straight through on a plane ride, and it's a wonderful book to fall right into. It's a light and engaging read, but agree I found it poignant. Great believable characters that avoid stereotypes, which would have been easy to fall into, especially in presenting the workings of a
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family dealing with the heartbreaking situation of aging/dementia, as well as the struggle of a millennial to find her place in the world. A happy and affirming read despite the painful subject matters. Unsurprisingly (given the author's background as a food editor), food is a central theme in a good way.
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LibraryThing member angiestahl
I really liked this and would recommend it! It's a fast read and though fiction, its realistic portrayal of various relationships (romantic, friendship, sibling, child/parent, etc) are very relatable. Written diary-style, the novel spans a year in the life of the female adult character who puts her
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'regular' life on hold to move back in with her parents.

It deals with tough situations like aging parents, Altzheimers, and break-ups sensitively and with humor and navigating changing parent/child/sibling relationships over time. It's sweet and provides perspective on savoring time and small moments with the people you care about most without being afterschool special-ish in the least.

This isn't likely the kind of book that draws buzz, but it's definitely worth a pick up, especially if you have a family member facing dementia.
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LibraryThing member 2LZ
Thank you for sending me an advanced reader copy of Goodbye Vitamin, by Rachel Khong in return for my honest review.

This short novel touched me as few other books have. It is a story told through diary entries of a daughter's return to the family home to care for her father
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suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease. These everyday entries elicit the joy and sorrow of caring for an ill loved one. It felt true and real. It was heartbreaking and spectacular, tragic and heartfelt. I loved it. To me though, it was the journal entries written by the father from years past of his time raising his daughter that resonated with me and made this excellent book extraordinary. This man who made his share of mistakes had a profound love for his daughter and would have, in his own written words, "...give...all the money I've got. My entire set of teeth. That special silver dollar your grandfather gave me...Any of it, all of it, just to keep you here." I can remember feeling that way raising my children, wanting time to freeze because it simply felt so precious.

I wish the ending would have been more concrete, but these illnesses rob families of stability and dependability. Additionally, the novel spanned a period of one year, and Dementia and Alzheimer's disease are typically devastatingly slow.

This typical family showed their true selves when it counted. It was a messy life story told with grace. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Fjumonvi
Goodbye, Vitamin is a one-year slice of thirty-year-old Ruth's life--the year during which she returns to her childhood home to help care for her father, until recently a highly regarded college professor, who is descending into Alzheimer's disease. The interactions among the family members and
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another major character, the professor's last teaching assistant, ring so true to life that it's almost spooky. This is a realistic family, striving with all their hearts to take care of Dad, with love, tolerance, and a poignant sort of humor--and, occasionally, anger. Their story is chronicled through Ruth's journal entries, including quotations from the journal Dad kept when she was growing up. Her childish questions and actions--scraping the seeds off of bagels, for example, and planting them in the garden in hopes of growing a bagel tree--and, late in the book, her observations of her father's childlike questions and actions--for example, watching a baseball game and asking what kind of ball it was; spoon-feeding tuna from a can to the neighbor's cat--vividly point up the Alzheimer sufferer's regression.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy books about family relationships and those who have dealt (or are dealing) with a loved one with dementia.
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LibraryThing member debkrenzer
An entertaining, poignant, funny debut told from the perspective of Ruth whose father is suffering from Alzheimer's. Ruth's mother has all but given up as she just can't take it anymore and her brother is still away for college, absolutely no help. So, Ruth, who is suffering from an emotional break
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up with her fiance, is asked to leave San Francisco and come to LA to attend to her father.

The things that Ruth comes up with to help her father are sometimes just laugh out loud hilarious. She is constantly reading about things that cause and can help her father's symptoms. Jellyfish everything for one day was just a little gross, however. Ha!! She even goes so far as to set up "fake" classes to help her father think that he is still teaching at the University!

An enjoyable read from a debut author, Rachel Khong.

Thanks to Henry Holt & Co. and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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LibraryThing member lorimarie
I liked this book, after recently going through this in my life I felt Rachel really hit the nail on the head. I'd recommend this book to anyone caring for an elderly family member. I'm not sure if it would be of that much interest to others.
LibraryThing member bookappeal
This short novel reveals its story in choppy segments of present moments, flashbacks, and snippets of conversation - a narrative style that can be tricky to get used to but pays off in the end. Ruth is 30 years old and has just been dumped by the man she thought she would spend the rest of her life
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with though, in hindsight, the signs of their imminent break-up are more obvious. When her mother asks her to come for Christmas and stay a year to help care for her father who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, Ruth is reluctant but also a bit desperate to do something to recover from losing Joel. Ruth is all-consumed with memory. She can't help but think of the time she wasted on her relationship, the poor decisions and sacrifices she made, and also the details of times with Joel that brought her joy. She can't ignore her father's slow decline or the memories that he wrote down when Ruth, as a child, did or said something amusing or insightful or so meaningful to him that he never wanted to forget it. How can she remember that her father cheated on her mother and still respect him? How can she lose respect for him now when he may not even remember her soon? The story could have been 200 pages of heartbreak and sadness but Ruth's observations about life are dry and amusing. And when she meets a man who speaks the same crazy language, a tiny light starts to flicker at the end of the tunnel. Everyone knows where her father's future is heading but author Rachel Khong manages to make the journey touching and painful but also heartwarming and buoyant.
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LibraryThing member pdebolt
I read this beautifully-written, oddly-named book with both tears and laughter. Ruth, recently broken up with her fiancé, returns home to help her mother care for her father, who struggles with Alzheimer's. Her father, a college professor, has a history of marital infidelity and alcoholism, which
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has resulted in conflicting emotions for Ruth, her mother and brother, Linus. Ruth is kind, funny, forgiving and compassionate in understanding her father's limitations. She is also a fount of obscure, interesting information. There is a deep poignancy in this book despite the premise and a haunting wisdom about the memories that families cherish.
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LibraryThing member pinklady60
A thirty-year-old woman returns home after her father is asked to leave his teaching position at the university because of his advancing Alzheimer’s disease. Throughout the story, told in journal entries, Ruth reflects on her life and her somewhat strained and complicated relationship with her
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Having been a caregiver for someone with dementia, I related to many of the situations - - some sad, some frustrating, and some comical. The author deals with this very tough subject with compassion and just the right amount of humor.
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LibraryThing member shazjhb
Pretty good representation of dementia. Not sure if the characters work as well.
LibraryThing member pgchuis
A year in the life of Ruth, who has recently broken up with her fiance Joel, and returns to her parents' home to help care for her father, who has dementia.

The narration is laconic and detached, and I only intermittently identified with/bonded with Ruth. There were touching moments and humorous
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stories and I enjoyed it in a gentle way. Then it just ended.
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LibraryThing member gpangel
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong is a 2017 Henry Holt publication.

Poignant and bittersweet

I wasn’t sure if I had the emotional wherewithal right now to read a novel that most assuredly would lean toward the depressing side.

But, on occasion, I simply can't resist a publishing push and with less
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than two hundred pages I figured I could handle whatever emotional punches were thrown my way.

Once I started reading the book, however, I found the tone to be lighter than I had anticipated, and soon found myself wrapped up in Ruth’s year long journey-

Ruth’s mother invited her to move back home after her father begins exhibiting signs of dementia. Having just broken up with her fiancé, feeling at loose ends, Ruth accepts the invitation and moves back home for a year.

Ruth’s narration is often flighty, meandering, disjointed, and disorganized, as she works through her personal heartbreak, her mother’s disappointments, and of course her father’s battle to keep his mind sharp and stay active as long as possible.

While Ruth is really hurting, she is also determined, treading into uncharted territory, discovering her parents weren’t perfect, but learning to see them in a new, more mature light, as she must now be the adult in the home. She reconnects with old friends, her brother, Linus, and comes to realize despite his foibles, she is the light of her father’s life, the apple of his eye.

"Sharing things is how things get started, and not sharing things is how they end.”

The discovery of her father’s diary which detailed conversations he had with Ruth when she was a child, was charming, often hilarious and sweet, but also a little sad. These entries were my favorite part this book and I loved the way Ruth borrowed from this idea, which showed how life really does seem to come full circle.

“I like also that having a terrible day pretty much guarantees that the next day will be much, much better.”

Life and family are messy, but through all the turmoil, mistakes, and heartbreak, I think Ruth discovered a way to give back to her father some of what he gave to her, and in the process, managed to find the beginnings of her own inner peace.

Ultimately, despite the quirky writing style, or maybe because of it, I ended up enjoying this book far more than I would have thought.

While this may have been a short, quick read, it was a touching story, overall, and I’m glad I decided to give it a chance.
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LibraryThing member FlowerchildReads
Alzheimers, cruel and insidious.

How do you tell a story of a parent who is physically healthy but cognitively no longer capable of working, doesn't recognize family members, doesn't adhere to societal norms? It is heartbreaking. Goodbye, Vitamin, a debut novel by Rachel Khong, walks this razor
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fine line with humor and grace to tell this story.

Ruth Young arrived at her parents home at her mothers request just after Christmas, jobless, newly broken up with her fiancé. She finds her father Howard has been leaving his pants in trees, her mother Annie views everything as a potential culprit. As the reality of her fathers Alzheimers sets in, the gravity of his condition, Ms Khong's writing really shines. She does a masterful job navigating the loss, anger, tenderness, and vulnerability to make such a difficult subject 'readable'. Most of all I found so much of this relatable, and that is the books greatest strength.

I received an advanced reader copy (eGalley) from Henry Holt & Company through NetGalley. This review reflects my honest and unbiased opinions.
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LibraryThing member nyiper
Going home to help care for her father's developing dementia, for a year, is a story that seemed to be possibly more of a memoir than a novel. i wondered about Knong's experiences within her own family.There are amusing and very warm descriptions of family life along with the disruptions that have
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apparently been going on for years, Ruth provides memories from earlier times, partly from a journal her father kept about her as a small child. As the year comes to an end the question is left up-in-the-air---what has been accomplished and where are things going? Khong's writing is very descriptive---we can see and hear the characters relate to each other. Does Khong need a sequel to develop what happens next in more than just the father's situation? Is Khong letting Ruth mostly escape from a long drawn health situation or does the presence of Theo (a possibly developing relationship) mean that Ruth will be returning home frequently?
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LibraryThing member janismack
Ruth returns home after a breakup to help care for her father who has alzeimer's. Couldn’t get into this book.
LibraryThing member Cherylk
I liked how the author captured the Young family. They were not perfect but they portrayed a normal family struggling to survive and along the way they learned how to live and love again as a family. Ruth is a good daughter willing to help out her parents. Although, for me the stars of this book
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are Ruth's parents, Howard and Annie. Their maturity and wisdom really lends to the story.

Howard showed that although he may be dealing with Alzheimer's he was still a person. When he was teaching his small class room of students is where he shined the most. There was not a lot of detail spent in the class room, it seemed as if Howard was in the present and it seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. Than there is Annie. The fact that she went to such extremes by tossing out all of the aluminum pots and pans; thus, no more home cooked meals but yet she could be found sliding pizza under the door when Howard locks himself in his office. She was so endearing.

Ruth was the one that did the most growing in this book. She found herself again after his breakup. Not only this but she had a new outlook on life. All I have to say about this book is...Goodbye Vitamin, Hello, Love.
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LibraryThing member akblanchard
After a bad breakup, Ruth moves home to Southern California, where her in with her eccentric, dysfunctional family lives. Her history professor father has Alzheimer's disease. Her mother and brother and are bitter about the drinking and philandering the father did before dementia set in. Ruth, who
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had always had a special bond with her father, does everything she can to try to improve his life, including working with a handsome former student of his to set up a fake "class" for him to teach. Here plausibility goes out the window.

I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is a quick, engaging read. On the other, many of the characters' conversations consist of mildly interesting factoids, which do not substitute for character development. Moreover, aside from some observations about sundowning and door knob placement, the narrative doesn't talk about the day to day nitty-gritty of caregiving as much as I would have liked. Recommended with reservations.
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8.29 inches


1250182557 / 9781250182555
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