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No Saints around Here: A Caregiver's Days
     

No Saints around Here: A Caregiver's Days

4.7 4
by Susan Allen Toth
 

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When we promise “in sickness and in health,” it may be a mercy that we don’t know exactly what lies ahead. Forcing food on an increasingly recalcitrant spouse. Brushing his teeth. Watching someone you love more than ever slip away day by day. As her husband James’s Parkinson’s disease with eventual dementia began to progress, writer

Overview

When we promise “in sickness and in health,” it may be a mercy that we don’t know exactly what lies ahead. Forcing food on an increasingly recalcitrant spouse. Brushing his teeth. Watching someone you love more than ever slip away day by day. As her husband James’s Parkinson’s disease with eventual dementia began to progress, writer Susan Allen Toth decides she intensely wants to keep her husband at home—the home he designed and loved and lived in for a quarter century—until the end.

No saint, as she often reminds the reader, Toth found solace in documenting her days as a caregiver. The result, written in brief, episodic bursts during the final eighteen months of James’s life, has a rare and poignant immediacy. Wrenching, occasionally peevish, at times darkly funny, and always deeply felt, Toth’s intimate, unsparing account reflects the realities of seeing a loved one out of life: the critical support of some friends and the disappearance of others; the elasticity of time, infinitely slow and yet in such short supply; the sheer physicality of James’s decline and the author’s own loneliness; the practical challenges—the right food, the right wheelchair, the right hospital bed—all intricately interlocking parts of the act of loving and caring for someone who in so many ways is fading away.

“We all need someone to hear us,” Toth says of the millions who devote their days to the care of a loved one. Her memoir is at once an eloquent expression of that need and an opening for others. No Saints around Here is the beginning of a conversation in which so many of us may someday find our voices.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"While some readers may find the title of Susan Allen Toth’s No Saints around Here unintentionally ironic, it came to seem no more than apt to me. Halfway through the book, I was wondering how many saints could have matched her devotion in the care she gave to her husband or achieved the honesty, humor, and vividness of her moving account." —Garret Keizer, author of Privacy and Help

"That may be the book's greatest value—that caregivers of loved ones reading it will take comfort in knowing that what they are going through has been shared by many others." —Kirkus Reviews

"This is an important book, not just for lonely caregivers but also for us all. It ought to be required reading for anyone in a position to affect funding and social policy to benefit those who toil to care for others." —Star Tribune

"Each time I sat down and opened the book, I felt I was reading a heartfelt letter from a friend." —Books & Culture

"While some readers may find the title of Susan Allen Toth’s No Saints around Here unintentionally ironic, it came to seem no more than apt to me. Halfway through the book, I was wondering how many saints could have matched her devotion in the care she gave to her husband or achieved the honesty, humor, and vividness of her moving account." —Garret Keizer, author of Privacy and Help

"It is an honest and simple telling of her struggles, grief, pain, anger, and even hope as she sought to keep James at home to the very end which she did....I really appreciated this book for its practical wisdom and insight it offers both in my own care giving role and in my work as a clergy. I will be recommending it to others as a guide to help them as care givers and as those who help care givers. I rate this book an ‘outstanding’ read." —Le Padre Ver Livre

"With honesty, humor, and a beautiful and steadfast love for James, Susan carries the reader through all the ups and mostly downs of in-the-trenches caregiving. " —Mainstay

"Read it, read it, whether or not you’re a caregiver. You never know when you might become one." —Dave Wood

Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-13
A wife's frank memoir of her time as a caregiver during the last 18 months of her husband's life. Writing teacher Toth (Leaning into the Wind: A Memoir of Midwest Weather, 2003, etc.), whose husband, James, had Parkinson's disease, tells it like it is. Once a successful architect, he declined both physically and mentally as the disease ravaged his body. The author was determined to care for him at home in the house he had designed for them, the story of which is told in their jointly authored book, A House of One's Own (1991). During those last months, Toth jotted down her thoughts, feelings and uncertainties, and she recorded the intimate details of caring for a helpless person. Arranged in chronological order, these short essays tell of a dark journey through slow decay and toward inevitable death. Caregivers do not just soothe fevered brows; they have to brush and floss their patients' teeth, feed them, find the right commode, diapers, and waterproof mattress pads, clean up their messes and cope with their demands. They do what has to be done. While Toth makes it clear that she dearly loved the man she was caring for, she lets her fatigue, guilt, frustrations, fraying patience and even exasperation show. Having paid help is a plus, of course, and the author's financial situation will be the envy of many. The bonds she formed with other caregivers who shared their experiences, sometimes with black humor, were invaluable to her. That may be the book's greatest value—that caregivers of loved ones reading it will take comfort in knowing that what they are going through has been shared by many others. An inward-looking account with an important take-home message: Caring for a dying loved one is a demanding task, and caregivers are only human.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816692866
Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
Publication date:
04/14/2014
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
565,200
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Susan Allen Toth has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Harper’s, and Vogue, among other publications. Her many books include Blooming, Ivy Days, My Love Affair with England, England As You Like It, and Leaning into the Wind: A Memoir of Midwest Weather (Minnesota, 2006). A longtime teacher and writer-in-residence at Macalester College, Toth currently divides her time between rural Wisconsin and La Jolla, California.

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No Saints around Here: A Caregiver's Days 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
mysterybook_nerd98 More than 1 year ago
An honest, poignant, and darkly funny book. Susan Allen Toth's collection of essays about her caregiving days are not just a must read for caregivers; they're a must read for all readers.
flbiker More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, as it shows realistically how demanding a caregiver's life is. After having gone through serious illnesses of my parents and husband who died, I related to the times when you just want to go away somewhere and get away from it all. Susan Toth did have some caretakers for her husband and did occasionally get away, which I was not fortunate enough to do with my husband. I also understand how difficult it is to help the sick person when he/she does not want to do what you want them to do. Navigating the medical aspects of a disease can seem almost impossible, what with many medications and doctor visits, which Susan presented as she and I encountered them. On the whole, this book is for any current caregivers and those, like me, who are years away from the ordeal, but still feel the effects of it, including guilt and sadness at the things that we couldn't accomplish for the loved one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago