The Millions

The Spaces In-Between: The Millions Interviews Rachel Khong

Rachel Khong has trouble telling her life story. To her, life happens in the tiny daily interactions, and so to have a tidy narrative ready—the sweeping story of how she got from A to B—doesn’t accurately take into account how mysterious everything is.

Khong says that she “didn’t want anything big” to happen in her debut novel, Goodbye, Vitamin, but instead wanted it to exist in the “space in-between.” Written in a series of diaristic entries, the novel starts around Christmas and spans a year. Thirty-year-old Ruth Young, fresh off a broken engagement, has moved home after learning that her father, Howard, has Alzheimer’s disease. The book follows her as she tries to care for him while dealing with her breakup and career ambivalence.

Khong and I spoke by phone about the relationship between food and control, the process of editing her novel, and the odd things your exes remember about you.

The Millions: You’ve mentioned before that you don’t think Goodbye, Vitamin is necessarily about Alzheimer’s, and that it’s more a novel about memory. I’m curious, what do you mean by that?

Rachel Khong: Well, it’s obviously not not a novel about Alzheimer’s. That’s absolutely a component of the book and it’s a really important dynamic in the family. The fact that her father’s been diagnosed with it is the reason that Ruth comes home.

But I’m hesitant to have it be labeled a novel specifically about Alzheimer’s because I don’t think that’s the main struggle. I think it would be disappointing to someone who came

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