A Quirky Take on Parental Frailty: Goodbye, Vitamin…

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goodbye vitamin

I’ve read quite a number of books featuring characters with Alzheimer’s or dementia in my time, but I’ve never come across one quite like Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong.  We received a copy of this one from Simon & Schuster for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Ruth is thirty and her life is falling apart: she and her fiancé are moving house, but he’s moving out to live with another woman; her career is going nowhere; and then she learns that her father, a history professor beloved by his students, has Alzheimer’s. At Christmas, her mother begs her to stay on and help. For a year.

Goodbye, Vitamin is the wry, beautifully observed story of a woman at a crossroads, as Ruth and her friends attempt to shore up her father’s career; she and her mother obsess over the ambiguous health benefits – in the absence of a cure – of dried jellyfish supplements and vitamin pills; and they all try to forge a new relationship with the brilliant, childlike, irascible man her father has become.

Most books about Alzheimer’s that I’ve come across tend to feature, at some point during the story, a scene or scenes that really bring home to the reader the harrowing disease that Alzheimer’s is – the way it erases the personality and memories of an individual and shatters the familiar ways in which family and friends have connected with the sufferer throughout their lifetime.

Goodbye, Vitamin is nothing like that.

In fact, Goodbye, Vitamin forgoes the inevitable destruction of the human brain and any relationships in which said brain was involved, and instead focuses on the ways in which Ruth, chaotic and underachieving daughter of an Alzheimer’s-afflicted father, tries to adjust to a life put on hold, while she helps out her mother for “just a year”.

I must admit, it was quite refreshing to read a book featuring a character with Alzheimer’s and not come away feeling angsty and unsettled at the prospect of literally having one’s mind slowly eroded from within.

The book is written in a sort of diary format, as Ruth recounts events in chronological order during her year back at home.  I generally find diary-type books engaging and so it was in this case.  I tend to enjoy that the sections can be quite short and so I feel like I’m getting somewhere with the book quickly.  Having said that, this isn’t an overly hefty read and things move along apace from the moment Ruth decides to give it a year until the poignant but hopeful ending.

Ruth has a dry and self-deprecating sense of humour and manages to reminisce on both her broken past relationship and her childhood relationship with her father without being particularly maudlin, but highlighting the weirdness that we accept as everday life.  Her father’s ex-students play a surprising and uplifting role in attempting to halt her father’s decline and I had a bit of chuckle at their cloak and dagger antics as well as their finding new excuses to take their “classes” off campus.

As much as this is a story about the decline of a family member and a change in the parent-child relationship, it is also a story about the chaos of early adulthood – yes, even up to one’s thirties!  Ruth is in as much a period of flux as her father as she tries to forget past mistakes and forge a new path in her career and life in general.

I would recommend Goodbye, Vitamin if you are looking for a convivial tale about an unwanted mental guest and the ways in which people choose to remember.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

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TBR Friday…and an Fi50 Reminder!

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Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

It’s that time of the month again – Fiction in 50 kicks off on Monday!  To participate, just create  a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words and then add your link to the comments of my post on Monday.  For more information, just click on that snazzy typewriter at the top of this post.  Our prompt for this month is…

aged to perfection

Be there or be square!

TBR Friday

It’s back to YA for my TBR Friday effort this month, with A Bad Day For Voodoo by Jeff Strand.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, “Trust me. This is gonna be awesome.”

Of course, you probably wouldn’t believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone’s leg to blow clean off with one quick prick. But I’ve seen it. It can happen.

And when there’s suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out there—a doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)—well, you know that’s just gonna be a really bad day …

bad day for voodoo

Ten Second Synopsis:

After receiving an unfair failing grade in a test, Tyler’s well-meaning but slightly deranged best friend obtains a voodoo doll of the teacher in question.  After a completely innocent poke that causes the teacher’s leg to fly off in a spectacular display of bloody cinema, Adam experiences an episode of paranoia in which he obtains a voodoo doll of Tyler, and the shenanigans begin in earnest.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

I’m not entirely certain – It was published in 2012, but probably made it on to the shelf sometime in 2013 or 2014…or 2015.

Acquired:

Received as a birthday gift

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

I really, really wanted to read it for ages and so relegated it to the shelf.  As you do.

Best Bits:

  • There were a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments in this one, particularly during the “teacher’s leg flying off” scene.  The writing is casual and full of banter and this is obviously meant to be a funny book, rather than a book with any serious subplots, so it was a fun, light interlude.
  • Tyler is a protagonist one can relate to, who, through no fault of his own, finds himself in a series of unlikely, but amusing, life-or-death situations
  • The voodoo sellers are pretty funny characters who almost steal the show.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • The banter-y style started to get old for me about halfway through the book.  By the last quarter I just wanted the author to get on with the story, as things become a race against time, but the obligatory banter kept up until the end, which I felt slowed the pace a little.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

Considering it wasn’t my money that paid for it, yes.

Where to now for this tome?

I will probably pass it on to someone who will enjoy it.

This is another chink off the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block.

Mount TBR 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

Utopi-rama!: Introducing a New Feature and a New Reviewer…

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Good morning all! Today I am excited to introduce a brand new feature for the blog and a brand new reviewer, who has been shuffling about the shelf for a good long while now, but has finally made the leap into sourcing books for our glorious work.

First, the feature.  It may come as a surprising, perhaps even shocking revelation, but I can finally admit that I am getting a bit over dystopian novels.

There. I said it.

Gasp in horror if you must, but I have reached the point where if I have to read one more blurb (attached to a YA novel or otherwise) indicating mass death and destruction by zombification/totalitarian state/natural disaster/human-made disaster/mutated virus or otherwise, then I may have to jab myself in the eyeball with a toothpick.

I have reached my dystopian limit.

Instead of bemoaning the fact (more than I already have), I have decided to implement a new feature, titled:

utopirama button

This will be a semi-regular feature to celebrate all things utopian in the literary world.  For want of a better term, this feature will be promoting comfort reads – the kind of books with no nasty surprises, that you can confidently pick up when you’re feeling a bit dissatisfied with the state of the world, or have had your fill of zombification/totalitarianism/natural disaster etc etc…

And who better to select the books for this feature than our good friend and shelf-dweller, the Marquis de Chuckleworthy!  Although as his proper name is a bit of a mouthful, we on the shelf tend to just call him Larry.  As in “Happy As…”

You can probably guess why from his picture.

MdeC 2

Larry will be sourcing the books for this segment, and I will be presenting them to you, for your viewing and reading pleasure, with pleasure being the operative word.

Without further ado, here is Larry’s first offering, The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie!

dalai lamas cat

Quick Overview:

A cat born in the slums of India serendipitously finds itself saved from death and whisked away to share the dwelling of the Dalai Lama.  His Holiness’s Cat (aka Rinpoche, aka Mousie-Tung, aka The Most Beautiful Creature Ever Seen) reflects on this good fortune and shares her insights about the way to enlightenment in the way that only an exalted feline can.

Utopian themes:

Reclining cats

Crisp mountain air

Cheerful Lamas

Bookshops at the end of the world

Protective Bubble-o-meter:

protective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubbleprotective bubble

4 out of 5 bubbles for encouraging the gentle stretching of one’s comfort zone

So there you have it.  Thank you for joining us for the first ever Utopi-rama.  We would love to hear what titles you consider to be the perfect comfort read in times of inner or outer turmoil!

Until next time,

Bruce (and Laughin’ Larry)

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