Rachel Khong Uses Food to Tell the Story of a Daughter Who Cares for Her Ailing Father
A daughter says bon appétit and farewell in a delectable debut.
Photo: Courtesy of Henry Holt and Co.
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Henry Holt and Co.
What do you get when you mix a narrative about grief, family, and barely holding it together with the sensibilities of a culinary obsessive?
Reading Goodbye, Vitamin (Henry Holt) by Rachel Khong, an ex-editor of the cult cooking magazine Lucky Peach, is like tasting an entirely new flavor. At once gut-wrenching and deeply soothing, this bittersweet first novel uses an anthropological focus on eating to tell the story of 30-year-old Ruth and the year she moves back home to care for her father, who’s recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. From the root beer and taquitos Ruth shares at the tentative beginning of a relationship to the drive-through burgers gobbled in a car that offer a moment of simple pleasure during a period of intractable loss, food grounds the characters in nearly every scene. And as the dirty dishes pile up, it’s clear that Khong’s literary gourmandism is not a shtick but a profoundly affecting way to write about a disease that robs its victims of their past and future. Instead of marinating in what is lost, Khong celebrates what remains: good food and loved ones, all together in the present.
— Natalie Beach