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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 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
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
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