Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong– 196 pages
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.
My Review: 3.5 stars
Goodbye, Vitamin explores the experiences a young woman endures as she heads home to help her father who’s suffering ‘memory lapses’, aka dementia. In actuality, she’s helping her mother mentally and emotionally deal with the slow loss of her husband’s memory. She has convinced herself she is to blame by cooking with aluminum pans over the course of their marriage.
What makes this book unique, and not like any other child dealing with Alzheimer’s stricken parents, is that this book offers a good amount of humor. Khong takes slices of life that are odd but true. She writes about things that we all see but describes them with wit and insight. A serendipitous book moment happened right after I read this. One of the characters mentions that he always sees baby socks on the ground around town. I was thinking that this was peculiar thing to see, however the next day I saw a set of baby socks in a puddle on my way into Costco. Funny, right?
Ruth, the POV we hear throughout the book, feels as though she needs to fix everything for her parents as she can’t fix herself. She’s reeling after a breakup and is lost. She teams up with a colleague of her father that will enable him to teach a college class once again, giving him a new lease on life. How this fake class manages to meet on campus, completely unbeknownst to the college deans and higher ups, was delightful.
This is a quick, heartwarming read and I’m sure many will enjoy it.
Quotes I liked:
Memories are stored in collections of cells, and when we remember, we resemble the cells like a puzzle.”
-“I have to buy the holes because doughnuts have their holes punched out of them. Whereas bagels’ holes are made by stretching. Not buying them feels like being part of the problem.
-“He’s loaning me a book with the same size spine as the one he borrowed, to patch up the hole in my shelf.”
-“What imperfect carriers of love we are, and what imperfect givers. That the reasons we can care for one another can have nothing to do with the person cared for.”
-“Here’s the fear: she gave to us, and took from her, until she disappeared.”