Synopsis (via Goodreads):
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.
As someone who just (barely) survived her quarter-life crisis, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this quirky little novel. I remember adding this book to my list last year solely because of the cover art–what can I say? I’m a sucker for citrus. Fruit aside, it seemed like an interesting story, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I finally took it home.
Ruth, our protagonist, is 30 when she finds herself at an awkward junction: Her fiance (who she dropped out of college to be with) has broken up with her for another woman. Her career has plateaued, and on top of things, her father Howard, a tenured professor, has been diagnosed with Alzheimers and let go from his teaching position at the local university. Unsure of her next move, Ruth decides to move home to help care for her father, but after years of keeping him at arms length for alleged drinking and infidelity issues, is skeptical of how everything will pan out.
The story is written in diary entries, starting in December when Ruth first comes home throughout the following year. We follow Ruth as she navigates this crossroads and adjusts to living back at home, all while reflecting on her failed romance and exploring a new relationship with her parents.
No matter how much I love to escape with a good book, it’s the ones that feel honest that tend to be the most moving. To be totally transparent, nothing earth-shattering happens in Goodbye, Vitamin. Ruth returns home, her dad has good days and bad days, and she writes about it. Along the way she tries to pinpoint what exactly went wrong to end her relationship and figure out how to make the next move–whatever that may be.
The reality of reality is it’s not really glamorous–it’s usually far from it. Shit happens and we figure out how to deal with it. Whether it’s a breakup, a wrong career move, or a family tragedy, we take what we’re dealt in stride–it’s those who can find the silver lining in a lousy situation who come out on top. We watch Ruth learn about her family, her friendships, and most importantly, herself in the face of difficulty.
Khong’s writing style and tone make this book an amusing read. The characters, specifically Ruth and Howard, are strikingly witty, but not in a way that’s overdone and offputting. They’re also genuinely weird; at one point, Ruth and her best friend share a bowl of ranch dressing and cracked peanuts. Later in the novel, Ruth writes “what imperfect carriers of love we are, and what imperfect givers.” Their flaws, especially Howard’s, are even described in a way that make them oddly enjoyable and only add an element of authenticity to an all-around believable book.
Overall, Goodbye, Vitamin will tug on your heartstrings and make you want to hug your Mom and Dad. It breezes by but sticks with you page after page and long after you’ve finished the last chapter.