Goodbye, Vitamin

Rachel Khong

Goodbye, Vitamin
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Goodbye, Vitamin

Rachel Khong

Ruth is thirty and her life is falling apart: she and her fiance are moving house, but he’s moving out to live with another woman; her career is going nowhere; and then she learns that her father, a history professor beloved by his students, has Alzheimer’s. At Christmas, her mother begs her to stay on and help. For a year.

Goodbye, Vitamin is the wry, beautifully observed story of a woman at a crossroads, as Ruth and her friends attempt to shore up her father’s career; she and her mother obsess over the ambiguous health benefits - in the absence of a cure - of dried jellyfish supplements and vitamin pills; and they all try to forge a new relationship with the brilliant, childlike, irascible man her father has become.   


I doubt I will enjoy another book in 2017 more than Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin. This small miracle of a novel about family, friendship and memory is equal parts laugh-out-loud hilarious and acutely moving.

Thirty-year-old Ruth Young has been left by her fiancé for another woman. Heartbroken and directionless, Ruth quits her job and heads home to spend the holidays with her parents. Her father Howard, a prominent history professor beloved by his students, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and is only erratically lucid. Her mother begs Ruth to stay for a year to help care for him, despite Howard’s insistence that he’s absolutely fine. As Howard’s memory deteriorates, Ruth trawls through her father’s records of their relationship in an effort to remember her childhood and come to terms with the cracks in her parents’ marriage.

Goodbye, Vitamin is masterfully structured, told in compelling glimpses. Khong’s prose evokes the pithy, clear-eyed observations that made Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation such a revelatory reading experience. Here, the story is told in chronological vignettes spanning the course of a year. Ruth’s vivid narration is intimate and vulnerable, littered with small, deeply funny details that gather in force to tell what is ultimately an immensely poignant story about patience, forgiveness and what it means to care for the people in your life.

Khong is the former editor of food magazine Lucky Peach. Her fictional debut will appeal to fans of Miranda July, Maria Semple, Nell Zink or Miriam Toews; like them she writes honestly and with empathy about love, loss and everyday survival. But with Goodbye, Vitamin, Khong has asserted herself as an exciting new voice in literary fiction, with a tender, brilliantly original storytelling style that’s completely her own. Here she has reinvented the slacker comedy to produce a wry, witty and heartfelt family drama – a complete joy to read.

Stella Charls is the marketing and events coordinator for Readings.

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