"As it dazzles and delights, as it compels you to fall in love with the people within its pages, it too shows you what is impossibly hard about love, about life."
Why I love it
I’ve always been a fan of a certain kind of summer read—the book you take to the beach, expecting only fun and laughter, when it blindsides you with emotion and devastating insights until you’re both laughing and crying, tears and sand on your cheeks combining into an abrasive paste that would feel painful if you weren’t completely immersed in an incredible book. (Just me?) The kind of book that matches lightness with a certain level of darkness, feeling all the more true and alive because it contains everything alongside everything else, the way our lives do.
This summer, that book is Goodbye, Vitamin, the debut novel from former Lucky Peach editor Rachel Khong. Told in diary format, the novel follows a young woman named Ruth, whose life is in somewhat of a shambles after a broken engagement. She moves back home to help her mother care for her father, a history professor who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Heavy stuff—and Goodbye, Vitamin never shies away from it. But I also want to talk about how this book is a pure and utter delight to read. Ruth is a narrator you’d follow anywhere, her perspective hilarious, playful, and keenly observant. Though she’s often perplexed and unsure of what to do, she’s also always trying to make the best of things. One of the ways in which she tries to help is through food, as she cooks for her tired family and continually tries to entice her father to eat. (As to be expected from Khong, her writing about food is always fascinating, startling, and delectable, and is one of the many great joys of Goodbye, Vitamin.)
Along with Ruth, every one of the characters feels alive. Her mother, her father, her brother, her friends, her father’s former grad students—they are wonderful, strange, and infuriating (sometimes all at once) in the way of people you love or could love. And that’s how Goodbye, Vitamin gets you: As it dazzles and delights, as it compels you to fall in love with the people within its pages, it too shows you what is impossibly hard about love, about life. The book explores questions like: What do we owe each other? How do we forgive people when they change, especially when we haven’t fully forgiven them for who they were before? How are we supposed to let go at the same time we’re desperately trying to hold on to what we can?
Full of food, family, friendship, and love, Goodbye, Vitamin contains everything a reader might need to make them happy, while also showing how these things can be taken away, whether by accident or time. It is heartbreaking. It is a joy. Which means, of course, Goodbye, Vitamin is a perfect summer book.
Her life at a crossroads, a young woman goes home again in this funny and inescapably moving debut from a wonderfully original new literary voice.
Freshly disengaged from her fiancé 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 parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she'd realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth's father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.
Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life.
Read a sample →
Goodbye, Vitamin was short and oh so sweet—funny, poignant, and charming, this book pulled me in from start to finish. It was an absolute joy to read; Khong perfectly captures life’s bittersweetness.
I loved this book! It was insightful, poignant and, best of all, hilarious. I laughed myself to tears at one point. This novel has inspired me to start collecting moments. I highly recommend this read
Cedar Park, TX
Goodbye, Vitamin made me think about the legacy and memories I want to leave for my kids in a lighthearted, non-sappy way. It's the type of book you stop and tell a friend, "Listen to this". Loved it
El Segundo, CA
Reading Goodbye, Vitamin actually felt like reading someone's diary. The stream-of-consciousness was refreshing, the humor was natural and the balance between joy and despair was delicate and perfect.
Bittersweet. I felt like I was having a conversation with a good friend who was facing a heartbreaking situation & finding their way through. I'm definitely going to pass this one around. Just lovely.
Loving this book. I can't put it down! I constantly find myself saying "okay, one more journal entry and then I'll tend to my chores!" Feel like Ruth is my best friend and gave me her diary for fun.
West Hartford , CT
As someone whose family is dealing with dementia/Alzheimer's, I felt a connection to this book..but I don't even think you need that experience to enjoy it. It will make you think and laugh and feel.
Salt Lake City, UT
This book was so wonderful! It serves as a valuable reminder that sometimes a great person in your mind can be a bad guy in someone else's and that even if a person is flawed, you can still love them.
Quick paced & heartbreakingly relatable. Written in a way that appears easy to digest but packs a punch. Quirky & sad at times, one where the beauty sneaks up on you. Beautiful and strange and lovely.
Disclaimer: this book is very short. I was a little disappointed I added this and was able to read it in about a day. Overall the book shows the struggle of a family and how to overcome it, together.
Overland Park, KS
This book is bittersweet. It overflows with moments, if that makes sense. And I really do love little moments. I love descriptions like her father painting his nails silver one day, and her response.
I loved this book so much. The main character was hilarious and relatable- the kind of person you want as a friend. The story was heartfelt-not too heavy- beautiful story of an imperfect family. Loved
Fort Worth, TX
Really an heart pulling and interesting read. The characters are one of a kind and honestly written about family. Great read. Shared and was equally loved for its quirky look at a family situations.
Rockford , IL
Just wonderful. I'm sad that it's over. I had thought that it would be more focused on Ruth's dad and what he was going through. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it. The format was perfect. Great pick!
Virginia Beach, VA
Fabulous read! So much to consider about families/friends/relationships packed in this thin book. Well written, real, thought provoking, hilarious, and tear inducing (in parts). Tasteful. Read this!!
North Bergen, NJ
I read this book in 2 days and ran the full range of emotions--I laughed, I cried, I smiled. Lighthearted, but yet full of emotion, I felt like I was with my own family. A very pleasant book to read.
A daughter's journey through a parent's dementia, wrangling with his disappearing memories and fresh hurt from her breakup, I identified with her and her quirky views on the world in little moments.
Loved it. The format worked beautifully and made me want to start keeping a journal. I admired the protagonist's grace in handling huge hardships. Serious issues without a heavy hand. Wonderful book.
After witnessing the devastation of Alzheimer's firsthand, this book struck a chord near and dear to me, and reaffirmed that sometimes, the only way through the hardest pass is with humor and grace.
For such a short & seemingly simple read, this was a deep, meaningful story about how the everyday mundane, & overshadowing Alzheimer's can impact life in a sweet/sour, but stunning way. Impactful.