The figurative language of Rachel Khong…

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes and metaphors from Rachel Khong…

Unless I take careful notes, I usually can’t remember who has recommended individual books to me. This is a particular disadvantage with books that fall at either end of the spectrum — ones I dislike intensely or ones that I adore. With the novel,  Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong (pictured above), for example, I would love to be able to express my appreciation to the wise recommender.

Named a Best Book of the Year for 2017 by NPR Oprah Magazinethe Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly, the novel also has the distinction of being described as “startling in its spare beauty,” by The New York Times Book Review.

The book is charming, funny, interesting and has an engaging plot, centring on Alzheimer’s Disease. But I especially appreciated the author’s keen eye for figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • It was grotesque, the way I kept trying to save that relationship. Like trying to tuck an elephant into pants.
  • My street smells cold and familiar. All the grapefruits are hanging from trees like ornaments.
  • “Ruth,” says my mother, there to greet me, in the lit driveway of our pink house. I’d forgotten the exact colour. It’s the color of a cut, ripe guava.
  • When we were little, my mother always kept [the birdfeeder] filled. It always attracted regulars, like a good pub.
  • [The earring] is no bigger than a popcorn kernel.
  • The high school girls run like beautiful ostriches past me.
  • I was eating a sandwich, turning slowly like a stand fan, trying to find the wind so it could blow the hair from my face and away from the sandwich.
  • The moon, tonight, looks like a cut zucchini coin.
  • I see, walking on the other side of the street today, a man with enormous pecs. They look as inflated as popcorn bags right after microwaving.
  • Her eyelashes curve in this logic-defying way, as if each set of lashes might be able to support a mothball or a marble.
  • Thoughts are springing to mind, and I am dropping them all, irresponsibly, like dice.
  • In the moonlight your face was tired and lined like the underside of a cabbage leaf and I wondered what I looked like to you.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on April 5/18.

Scroll to Top


"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.