Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
(Henry Holt and Co., 2017, 208 pages)
Goodbye, Vitamin was a quick read that added a light-hearted touch to a serious topic. Our protagonist, Ruth, has returned home after a break-up. While she’s at home her mother makes it clear that she would appreciate Ruth sticking around to help care for her father. Ruth’s dad has been dealing with memory loss and it has gotten to the point where he’s no longer able to work as a history professor. Ruth isn’t exactly eager to take on the role of caretaker but when she sees the reality of the situation she can’t pretend to turn her back on it.
Told over the course of a year we see how Ruth navigates her new family dynamic. This is a well-written book that won’t take you long to knock out.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
(Graywolf Press, 2015, 160 pages)
This unique “memoir” focusing on the relationship between Nelson and her partner was beautifully written. This is so much more than a memoir because Nelson is also deconstructing things like gender, love, family, and identity. Interspersed throughout her own story Nelson refers to and quotes a number of other intellectuals. The breadth of her knowledge is impressive and when she references these thinkers she does so by utilizing the margins of the book. Initially I was confused by this formatting, but then I acclimated and appreciated the fact that it helped keep the body of the text clean.
The Argonauts isn’t the kind of book you can just breeze through because there is so much to unpack but it’s well worth your time to pick it up.
What Did You Eat Yesterday? Vol. 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga
(Vertical, 2014, 200 pages)
I honestly can’t remember how this series even caught my eye but the subject matter (fabulous food, relationships, comics) is certainly in my wheelhouse. This was actually my first time reading manga so it was a fun experience to adjust to the different reading format.
The story focuses on two men who are in a relationship. Shiro is a high-powered lawyer who reveals nothing about his sexuality at work. He enjoys spending his free time cooking delicious meals for himself and his partner, Kenji. Kenji works as a hairstylist and owns his sexuality. They occupy very different worlds but they bond over their shared meals.
Yoshinaga offers detailed descriptions of the food Shiro prepares and also includes recipes at the end of each chapter. I appreciated the artistic styling of the book and I’m actually curious to see how Yoshinaga further develops the main characters. There are a lot of plot points introduced in this volume and I’m intrigued by how they might get resolved. I’d give another volume or two a try before making my final decision on the series though as you can see from my star rating, I wasn’t blown away by any means.
Snow Day by Billy Coffey
(Faith Words, 2010, 195 pages)
I enjoyed this novel and how throughout the character’s day off work due to a snow storm he realizes that he is truly grateful for his family and the life that he has around him.
Description from Google Books:
“In this debut novel, Peter is a simple man who lives by a simple truth–a person gains strength by leaning on his constants. To him, those constants are the factory where he works, the family he loves, and the God who sustains him. But when news of job cuts comes against the backdrop of an unexpected snowstorm, his life becomes filled with far more doubts than certainties.
With humor and a gift for storytelling, Billy Coffey brings you along as he spends his snow day encountering family, friends, and strangers of his small Virginia town. All have had their own battles with life’s storms. Some have found redemption. Others are still seeking it. But each one offers a piece to the puzzle of why we must sometimes suffer loss, and each one will help Peter find a greater truth–our lives are made beautiful not by our big moments, but our little ones.”
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
(Grand Central Publishing, 2015, 209 pages)
This memoir about what it’s like to unexpectedly lose your husband was beautifully written, poignant, and heart-breaking. Alexander is a poet and that background shines through in the way she writes this memoir. Much like when you read poetry there would be sections of the book where I would finish and then just have to stop and reflect on what I’d read.
Even though the subject matter is sad it makes you appreciate the people you have in your life and the fact that no day is guaranteed to us. It also shines light on the fact that you WILL survive your grief. Just because someone is no longer physically beside us on this earth doesn’t mean their presence and the impact they had on your life disappears. It’s tragic, yes. But the fact that they have played a role in influencing the person you have become remains a beautiful thing to hold on to.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
(Harper, 2016, 322 pages)
Family dynamics, parental failure, forgiveness
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
(Riverhead Books, 2015, 390 pages)
One marriage through two lenses.