""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"--
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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.
We're 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy books about family relationships and those who have dealt (or are dealing) with a loved one with dementia.
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.
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.
The narration is laconic and detached, and I only intermittently identified with/bonded with Ruth. There were touching moments and humorous
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.