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.
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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