REVIEW: GOODBYE, VITAMIN By Rachel Khong

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Publication date July 11th by Henry Holt and Co.

A young woman returns home to care for her failing father in this fine, funny, and inescapably touching debut, from an affecting and wonderfully original new literary voice.

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. 

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I’m going to be honest and say that blurb doesn’t at all do Goodbye, Vitamin justice…it makes it seem somewhat boring actually and this book was not in any way boring. In fact, I think Amazon is right on the mark choosing it as a debut book of the month. Well deserved!

You might see the subject of Alzheimer’s and think this is a sad book and perhaps pass it by. Of course, that is absolutely a devastating disease and there were times I felt so bad for the entire family, especially Ruth’s dad. In my opinion, however, to pass on this book would mean you’d be missing out on some of the most engaging, often laugh out loud funny writing and characters I’ve come across this year. Rachel Khong’s writing style literally grabbed me on the first page and I knew I was going to love this book. Yes, that quickly I knew!

“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.  Yesterday, on Mom’s orders, I’d written his name and our number in permanent marker onto the tags of all his clothes. Apparently what he’s done, in protest, is pitched the numbered clothing into trees. Up and down Euclid, his slacks and shirts hang from the branches…”

That’s a condensed version of the first page but that’s all it took for me to decide I liked Ruth and I really liked her dad. The story is narrated by Ruth who I found to be a down to earth, witty and just plain likable character. She’s returned home after her fiancé has left her and her mom has requested her help with her dad, whose dementia symptoms are increasing, yet most of the time he’s pretty lucid and together. We also meet Rachel’s brother as well as her best friends and somehow the author made every character feel multidimensional. I have a feeling it was the spot on, often snappy, dialogue that made the characters leap off the page. It’s just that good. I also really enjoyed the past journal entries of Ruth’s dad as he has decided it’s time to share those with her. They were really creative and I loved how the author ended up bringing that journal concept back in the end.

This ended up being a perfect afternoon on the patio one-sit read for me which at just 208 pages was a just right length for this story. I really hope I’ve enticed you to give this fantastic debut a try. I can’t wait to see what Rachel Khong has in store for us in the future.

Many thanks to Henry Holt and Co. via Netgalley for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review. 

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45 thoughts on “REVIEW: GOODBYE, VITAMIN By Rachel Khong

  1. I totally agree that this one could totally get overlooked based on the blurb…all the appeal is in the intangibles! And I loved that pants opening…perfectly encapsulates the feel of the book.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Both my grandparents had Alzheimer’s disease and now my uncle has it, so I actually enjoy…that sounds weird…reading books about it because I like to see how the characters handle the changes caused in their life by the disease. It’s so devastating and has such long reaching effects for everyone that I do like other people becoming aware. I’m definitely going to read this one! And I love a book where the characters become that special to you! That doesn’t always happen.

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      2. I totally agree Stephanie and my grandma has some dementia at this time and while it’s so hard for family and the person diagnosed to deal with this diagnosis, I love that this book gives us a more humorous side at the same time never making light. I think you’ll enjoy it, please let me know if you read it so we can chat.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well said! ❤❤ I’ll definitely let you know if I do, which I plan on. I think it is probably too late to request it from Netgalley since it releases Tuesday, but I have 2 Audible credits I’ve been saving. Do you think it would translate well as an audiobook? Some books just don’t…

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I think the story would translate well but I’m super picky about narrators so imo that can make or break the listening experience. There’s a lot of dialogue in this novel so sometimes that’s hard for a narrator to get down well

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes, that’s where I’m super picky too!! I can love the story and the narrator ruin it. I’m pretty sure they have a feature where you can listen to a snippet before buying! I’ll check now and if so, pre-order if the narrator isn’t horrible 😊

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      6. Funny, this was one book that didn’t offer a preview listen, lol! And it had several narrators so I didn’t want to take my chances! I’ve gone ahead and preordered the physical book from Amazon. It should be here Tuesday😊❤ I’m excited about getting it!! I just need to read a couple of ARCs that I’m behind on before I can get to it 😕 At least I have it when I’m ready for it!! 😊

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  2. Thank you for the review and recommendation! I also thought the description make the book the sound a bit boring but since reading your review, I will certainly give it a shot!

    Happy Reading,
    Samantha @ BlondeVsBooks

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Terrific review, Renee! I’m obviously going to be in the minority on this one, but I really appreciate reading other perspectives. I liked Goodbye Vitamin, but I didn’t love it the way many others have. I thought Ruth’s diary entries chopped up the story too much, particularly in the second half of the book. For me, this might be a book that fell short of all the hype around it. I’ll be reviewing it next week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Susie! that’s what’s so fun about talking about books…the same book can generate so many differing opinions. I can see why the journal entries might not have worked for you, I just thought they were a creative, often witty add on to the story and then I loved how she used them in the end when Ruth did her own. Looking forward to your review!

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    1. Thanks Danielle! It’s MUCH lighter than you would think! I didn’t expect to laugh when I first read the blurb. Despite the subject matter I’d almost venture to say it’s way more feel good than sad

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  4. You definitely have me interested with your review, but with a grandmother suffering from the disease and me not having even started to face the situation, I’ll have to pass. But I’m keeping it in mind for days when I am strong enough because your points makes me want to read this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The blurb does describe what sounds like a totally different book. First impression was sad book but the first page makes it sound way more interesting. Great review Renee.

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