Earlier this year I read an excellent novel called Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell, a novel which focused on a quirky woman of an ethnic minority, Helen (Korean adopted by a white couple) who investigates the death of her brother. What made it stand out was that the main character had a singular worldview; always noticing details, spouting trivia and saying things at the wrong time.
Rachel Khong’s Goodbye Vitamin is somewhat similar. Ruth, a mixed race woman in her 30’s is trying to settle down after a break up. When she visits her family, she notices that her lecturer father is suffering from Alzheimer’s and her mother urges her to stay with them for a year.
Ruth, like Helen, is quirky. She likes to spout trivia, she does things differently and she observes life and gives it her own interpretation. Like Helen, Ruth comes to a self-realisation at the end. As she takes care of her father, the title refers to the vitamins he has to take in order to help his memory, she finally realises what it means to be an adult. By the end of the book Ruth realises that the situation will become worse but she takes it in her stride.
I liked this novel, a lot. In fact I am learning that I find main protagonists such as Ruth and Helen both endearing and funny. There’s a boldness in the writing that does not shy away from any topic, from taking care of goldfish to body functions and those sort of things makes me laugh. Despite the fact that the actual situation is depressing I admire Ruth for trying her best to survive and look at both her father and relationship in a positive light. There’s once scene where Ruth and a bunch of her father’s ex students recreate a fake course so that her father can continue lecturing. There are quite a few moments like this in the book and they are all touching. Due to it’s dual plot: aging vs growing up, Goodbye Vitamin is a special book and I can see it as a good primer to books such as Sorry to Disrupt the Peace or Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs