When Ruth’s fiancé moves in with another woman, she resorts to spending Christmas with her parents but ends up staying until the following Christmas to help look after her father, a history professor who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. "Goodbye, Vitamin" are the words he utters before swallowing the health tablets they hope will slow the progression of the Alzheimer’s but the title also acts as a metaphor for Ruth’s farewell to the father she knew.
The novel is structured as a chronological series of journal entries in which the thirty-year-old Ruth tries to make sense of her father’s illness while reflecting on her fiancé’s betrayal and her underachievement at work. Ruth’s father reveals he has a notebook in which he had written down things he wanted to remember about her childhood and it becomes evident they had always been close. Clearly, he is concerned for his daughter’s welfare and during moments of clarity encourages her burgeoning relationship with his former colleague, Theo. However, Ruth is not blind to her father’s less redeeming attributes and fails to understand why her mother has tolerated his extramarital affairs. At the same time Ruth is confused and hurt by how distant her mother has become, particularly while remaining close to Ruth’s bother, Linus.
Goodbye, Vitamin is recommended as a believable and engaging account of a young woman who is trying to rebuild her own life as she watches her father’s mental decline. The novel depicts family life with a mixture of humour, anger and pathos which reflects the variable nature of Alzheimer’s and Ruth’s fluctuating moods.
Submitted by David
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