This month Ava has already gotten lost in two great books that she couldn’t put down. She’s been so busy having summer fun, and as we know Ava loves to relax on a hot summer day with a cold drink and a great novel. Here are her two picks for your day at the beach, or toes in your tub….
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
As Ms. Khong parses memories, the ones lost, and the ones found, she creates an analogy of things present: a flawed father with Alzheimer’s, a flawed past love relationship, a flawed but hunky brother Linus, a martyr mother Annie as they all flit around Ruth, the daughter who has come home to nest with nestlings she feels terribly uncomfortable with: her family, her past and her struggles with the present.
As the characters surround each other and pivot to find love in imperfection, the novel soars. Goodbye, Vitamin radiates such vitality, such wisdom; with prose that tingles and vibrates, with sentences that simply stopped me flat with envy; it simply soars. This novel is a gem, an act of poetry, with a skilled writer who takes her characters masks and turn them into real time. I simply was blown away with everything about it.
Ruth has come home to a family in crisis. Her philandering father, her long-suffering mom who is outspoken about Ruth’s lack of daughterdom, a brother named Linus who despises the entire dysfunctional mess, and various and sundry subset characters resolve wounds almost seamlessly with pages so funny and yet so vulnerably poignant that even Ruth must take deep breaths.
Stunning, stunning and more stunning, Ruth ignites everything we know about vulnerability in her cheeky approach to all things involving life: how to make Cheetos from scratch, the secret life of jellyfish which can cure memory loss; how to cook without pans since her mother has thrown them all out; Annie’s tenderness for her narcissistic, affair driven husband caught up in the horrors of memory loss (and yet Ruth remembers the father who has kept a notebook of her childhood memorializing every thing she said and did as he adored her as a daughter); Theo, a man she is learning to trust who makes her laugh; Linus her brother who love-hates her father as he gives him only tenderness – throw this all up in the air, sprinkle it with sentences that simply paralyze in their brilliance – and Goodbye, Vitamin stirs up a Novel of the Year. You cannot miss reading this novel, I insist. One of the best I have read in YEARS! And FUNNY!
Waiting for You at Midnight by Vicki Salloum
When Arabella Joseph loses her husband Logan in her sixties, she spends a year experiencing her grief and sadness through addiction to men AA meetings and siphoning her thoughts and feelings into a memoir/journal that she writes to her dead husband. Arabella and Logan met in AA and for 27 years have remained sober and in meetings; AA meetings are the structure of their lives together.
But Logan’s death finds Arabella devastated and fragile, and as she muddles through grief and loss with distractions, she finds that life is not judgmental, but a process of just taking the next step.
A touch on the side of non-memorable, Waiting for You at Midnight does resonate with our cultural norm of addiction, but moves further into self-acceptance and self-love, and for this reason, I would consider it a good beach read. As Arabella reveals a sensitivity and ability to see love in places that others cannot, she transcends the feeling that her life is the autobiographical revelations of the author, and becomes, finally a character in her own right in a novel on love, loss and the meanings of connection and relationships that we offer ourselves and each other in times of great emotional turmoil.
We can’t WAIT to see what books she’ll be telling us about next, especially because summer is the BEST time to dive into a good book.