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Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong

Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel

by Rachel Khong

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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 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. ( )
  Fjumonvi | May 20, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Thank you librarything.com 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 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. ( )
  2LZ | May 20, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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 '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. ( )
  angiestahl | May 17, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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 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. ( )
  corinnealyssa | May 13, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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 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. ( )
  SamSattler | May 2, 2017 |
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