I spent 15 years caring for my parents, both of whom suffered from dementia, which made reading Goodbye, Vitamin a little uncomfortable for me. It brought back a lot of memories of trying to ride herd on a parent who wants to wander, being accused of all manner of crimes, or on the lighter side, telling the same joke over and over again and getting laughs because nobody ever remembered the punchline.
In the end, as smooth and readable as the narrative was, I felt as if I was experiencing all of those things from a very great distance, as if Ruth was never fully engaged in the everyday problems of a caregiver. It’s too clean, too neat to convey the crushing weight of loving someone who is disappearing.
I understand that this book is about Ruth and her relationship with her parents, about how she has avoided dealing with them until she has no choice, and how she comes to know them better through this experience. (Her father at least. Her mother remains something of a cypher) But I couldn’t help but feel that she is still holding them at arm’s length; that she is with them because her relationships hadn’t panned out.
All the characters seem so passive.
I still enjoyed the book, but weirdly I found very little in it that I could connect to. It didn’t really speak to my experiences of being a daughter of parents with dementia. And maybe that’s a good thing because I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed a book like that. At least with Goodbye, Vitamin, I could appreciate the humor she found in her situation even if it wasn’t the same humor I found.
So yes, I liked it. I didn’t love it, and I probably won’t read it again. But I might read more of Khong’s work in the future.