Tonight a man found Dad's pants in a tree lit with Christmas lights. The stranger called and said, "I have some pants? Belonging to a Howard Young?"
"Well, shit," I said. I put the phone down to verify that Dad was home and had pants on. He was, and did.
These opening lines are some of the best I've read in a long time. Moreover, they are highly indicative of what you're getting into with this debut novel. It's funny and it's sad and it reveals all its elements rather languidly. The writing is a complexity of harshness and sweetness, quite compelling.
With paragraphs like this:
There was a man named Joseph, who spent years in prison, and in that time had managed to loosen and ultimately extricate one eye with a coffee stirrer. His left eye, because he'd heard about the heightened sense of the blind and wanted to better hear his heart, in case it ever stopped.
There's a lot of interesting... trivia is the correct word, I suppose, though it seems inadequate to me. Interesting facts (many of which I looked up to unfailingly find true) but apropos of nothing. Similarly, there are a lot of observations like the paragraph above that have no bearing on or relation to the plot. It often seems like these were shining, interesting bits Khong dreamed up and included for the sake of showing off their shininess. This isn't so much a criticism as it is explaining that the reader needs to be in the sort of mood where they can just enjoy the ride, appreciating the writing for what it is, regardless of its impact on the characters or the plot.
I enjoyed this very much. It was a departure from what I most often gravitate towards in novels, but nonetheless the sort of storytelling I appreciate. My favourite element was the memories Ruth's father recorded from their interactions when she was a child. They were sweet and magical (in a good way!), and come full circle in a bittersweet fashion that makes the book even lovelier.
Henry Holt & Co. provided an advanced copy. Goodbye Vitamin comes out this Tuesday, July 11th.