Rachel Khong’s first novel, Goodbye, Vitamin, is a December to December journal of forgetting, remembrance, and healing. Ruth is home for Christmas for the first time in a few years. She would have been spending Christmas with fiancé’s family, but he broke up with her a few months back in a particularly cowardly and feeble way. In the midst of their move to a new house, he lets drop that he’s actually moving in with another woman. She’s feeling unmoored, so when her mom suggests she come home for a time to help with her father whose losing himself to Alzheimers, she heads back home.
Over the year, she learns things she didn’t want to know about both her parents. They are a family, which means they fight, make up, argue, and forgive. Her brother’s relationship with her father is more complicated as he was still home when his father’s drinking and behavior was most damaging. Nonetheless, there is always this tie that holds them together no matter the push and pull and the tensions that strain it.
This is a small story with a trajectory plotted by biology, but it surprises and delights thanks to the reality of this family’s connections that hold together through everything.
Goodbye, Vitamin is very much a story of the internet era. While at the beginning, the daily journals are longer and more expositor, as they year progresses, they become more an d more like Facebook status updates. Short, aphoristic, anecdotal. It’s full of the kind of humorous quips and dialogue that you come across on Twitter and Facebook. Her dad gives her pages from a journal he kept about her.” Today you…” each entry begins and it’s very much “Kids Say the Darnedest Things.” This makes for a lot of smiles and giggles that offset the tragedy of a father losing his memories and this brilliant teacher not being allowed to teach anymore.
There is a lot of sweetness. Some of his students arrange to take a “class” he teaches wherever they can find a place to hold it as her father has been banned from campus. They write papers, come to class…a testament to what a great teacher he must have been. There’s humor. Her father wants no more crucified (cruciferous) vegetables so she makes a meaty meal in which she swears no veggies were harmed. There are puns and malaprop galore, so those who love language will find special pleasure in the book.
I liked it a lot. The journalized writing will also make it a pleasure for people who can only read in short moments. It’s easy to put down and pick up and stay with the story. I read it while reading other books, switching between them and never felt I lost my place. I came to care about this family, all of them and appreciate this story so rich in compassion and understanding.
Goodbye, Vitamin will be released July 1st. I received a copy from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.