cover image Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin

Rachel Khong. Holt, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-1-250-10916-3

Lucky Peach executive editor Khong’s first novel, written in journal format, is a family drama cum breakup story about 30-year-old Ruth, a recently single sonographer struggling to come to terms with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis received by her father, Howard. When his behavior worsens (such as wandering over to a neighbor’s porch in his underwear), Ruth quits her job in San Francisco to move back in with her parents for a year to keep an eye on things. After Howard, a history professor, is asked to take a leave of absence, Ruth and a few ex-students stage a fake class on the college campus in order to keep his mind engaged, but without alerting the proper authorities. Meanwhile, Ruth starts a budding romance with co-conspirator Theo, finds her parents’ signed divorce papers, and digs deeper into her father’s extramarital dalliances. Emotions heat up further when Howard’s actions progress “from manageable to scary” and he smashes plates, shouts, and throws bedroom pillows into a neighbor’s pool. Because of the book’s truncated structure and the frequent descriptions of minutiae (catalogs of Ruth’s boyfriends postbreakup, patrons at the bar where she and Theo go on a date, facts about Alzheimer’s disease), passages seem underdeveloped, especially given the weighty subject matter. Though this foray into a family’s attempts to cope mostly skims the surface, it does gain depth as it progresses. Agent: Marya Spence, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (July)