Thank you, Henry Holt Books, for this copy of Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. All thoughts and images are my own.
Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)
Freshly disengaged from her fiance and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town, and arrives at her parent’s home to find family life more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory. Her mother, like Ruth, is smarting from a betrayal. But over the course of a year, the comedy in Ruth’s situation takes hold, gently transforming her grief.
This book snuck up on me. I didn’t know how much I was enjoying it until it was almost over. It’s short: ~200 pages that read very quickly. But it is a breath of fresh air. Ruth, our narrator, is matter of fact in her descriptions. She notices everything, both big, like her father’s declining memory, and small, like the way strangers interact with one another on the street.
Reading this book made me consider how attached we are to our memories. Not just those of us who openly proclaim their love of memories – who journal or make 1 second everyday videos or keep book blog entries to remind themselves what they were reading when. We all take for granted being able to recall even the smallest memories whenever we choose to do so (and even when we do not voluntarily choose). What we remember makes us who we are. To lose that is to lose a part of yourself.
One of the most beautiful parts of the book is the inclusion of excerpts from Ruth’s father’s journal that he kept when she was a young girl. It’s funny how memories that aren’t ours can become ours when someone else shares them with us. One of the best conversations I had with my parents this past year was when I asked them to share their memories of the day I was born. If you haven’t done that before, I would highly recommend asking the question.
This book is refreshing. Take a minute to walk in Ruth’s shoes for a year. I can’t imagine you’ll regret it. Despite the subject matter, this book is not maudlin and it’s not saccharine. It’s just right.
Interested in this book? Click here to buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore!