Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

No Saints around Here

A Caregiver’s Days

2014
Author:

Susan Allen Toth

No Saints around Here

A moment-by-moment memoir of the difficulty and dedication of caregiving

As her husband James’s Parkinson’s disease with eventual dementia began to progress, writer Susan Allen Toth decides she intensely wants to keep him at home until the end. Wrenching, occasionally peevish, at times darkly funny, and always deeply felt, Toth’s intimate, unsparing memoir reflects the realities of seeing a loved one out of life.

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

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.

No Saints around Here

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.

No Saints around Here

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

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

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

Each time I sat down and opened the book, I felt I was reading a heartfelt letter from a friend.

Books & Culture

Brutally honest, funny, and affecting, with the end result being a very worthwhile read about unconditional love, sacrifice, time, and loss.

Hazel & Wren

Beautifully written. Poignantly real. Righteous, at times. Humbling. Overwhelmingly loving.

The Caregiver’s Voice

No Saints around Here

Contents

Preface

Introduction
No Saints around Here
Together
Red Flag in the Mailbox
His Cold, My Cold
Let Me Count the Ways
Failing Battery
Sleeping with a Wombat
Stuff, Stuff, Stuff
Overloaded
The Nursing Home on the Hill
Teeth Torture Time
Time on the Tundra
How Is James?
Priorities: Blue Jeans
Smiling under Water
Beige Lies, Pink Lies, Purple Lies
A Very Short Tooth Tale
Hanging On
Absent Friends
No Skipping to the Last Page
My Adventures with Gentlemen’s Pads
The Voice in the Bathroom Cupboard
Just a Minute!
At the Foot of the Roller Coaster
Gravy
Home, Alone
Through the Hospice Door
Time, Again
Off the Balance Beam
Whaddya Know, Joe?
Obsessions
The Last Christmas
Silver Anniversary
The Net Is Larger Than You Can Imagine
An Unexpected Corner of My Net
The Long Passage
Census Day
Living in a Bubble
Unmoored
The Base Line
Vanishing Perspective
French Toast
Firestorm
A Ring among the Ashes

Coda
Acknowledgments