Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Review: Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd seen mixed reviews of this one so I held off on it for a while. But I knew it was a quick read so I finally picked it up. I personally loved the sparse contents, a journal with brief entries of a sort, chronological over the course of a year. Ruth, the novel's narrator, returns to her parents' home to help with her father, who has Alzheimer's. Her own relationship has failed and she quits her job to return home, after several consecutive years (or at least holidays) away, so she hasn't seen the deterioration as it happened.

The word that came to mind as I sipped a holiday coffee is "bittersweet." The nostalgia and memories are difficult because of the present reality, but the new experiences and transposed realities also have a level of enhanced importance to them, now that the impermanence of life has been acknowledged.
"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. That it has only to do with who we were around that person - what we felt about that person."
There are tiny pieces of the novel that are pieces of journals of her father, observations he made about her when she was a child and would say something accidentally clever or funny. The novel shifts to include more of these from her perspective about her father, and more and more to the present moment without the history. This may seem confusing or small but I think anyone who has been even a partial companion to a parent dealing with a permanent or terminal illness will recognize this type of world. It becomes so small, so fast, and unless you focus on these tiny moments of observation and amusement, all it is is the disease and the loss. So for me, this book is not the least bit shallow, but the natural companion to a very hard time.

I also just loved the tiny asides and comments... it reminded me of the tone of a lot of my emails, actually. Maybe I just found myself a lot in this book.

"Lately my thing is inventing new yoga poses. The Onion is one. You make yourself very round, then peel yourself, limb by limb."

"Tonight I try my hand at dessert: baked Alaska, because of course. It's so epic! How can you bake Alaska? How can you not?"

"He tells me about his day. How he was, when I called, leaving a bad stand-up show and feeling outrage. How, earlier today, he returned bad avocados to the grocery store, and got a refund, and felt triumphant."

"There are depressed-looking sea snails, sucking algae slowly. It occurs to me that they might be taking their time, enjoying the algae. Maybe they aren't depressed after all. Maybe it's the opposite, and the one who's depressed is me."

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