A graphic novel, a brilliant retelling of a Shakespeare play, a standout second novel from the 2015 Miles Franklin winner Sofie Laguna, a couple of mile-a-minute page-turners, and a brilliant debut literary crime novel from a fresh Australian voice; these, and more, are my picks for the books that have already made 2017 a stellar year for reading. And we’re only halfway through it!
In Goodbye, Vitamin Rachel Khong takes a scenario loaded with melancholy — a young woman’s father being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease — and tackles it with uncanny sweetness, lightness and humour. Which isn’t to say the novel lacks any gravitas, or the necessary emotional gut-punch to make it resonate; it just impacts more subtly than you might expect.
Newly disentangled from her fiance and still overwhelmingly heartbroken about it, thirty-year-old Ruth Young is called home by her mother after her father’s diagnosis, who is irregularly lucid. Ruth’s mother — despite her husband’s infidelities — is determined to be his rock, but she could use a helping hand, and so Ruth throws herself into being a devoted caretaker, even going so far as to concoct pretend university lectures for her father in an effort to assuage his flailing faculties.
Goodbye, Vitamin is masterfully structured, told in the style of a personal journal, with Ruth’s plentiful observations into humanity providing some of the novel’s comedic highlights. There’s the requisite romantic subplot, and plenty of lingering angst following the breakup of her pending nuptials, but the book thrives thanks to the complicated relationship between all members of the Young family, and Khong’s knack for digging into the roots of their issues in such a delicate, nuanced, but overwhelmingly hilarious fashion.
I can imagine nothing worse than Alzheimer’s: the betrayal of one’s own mind and memory, slowly leaving you. It is a devastating illness, and Goodbye, Vitamin portrays this in such a unique way. It’s bittersweet, absolutely — but it shows that where there is family, where there is love, there is hope.
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Scribner UK
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Jun-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom