With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding

Non-Fiction - Health - Medical
457 Pages
Reviewed on 10/30/2019
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Author Biography

Dr. Karen Hutchins Pirnot is a retired Clinical Psychologist. She had a clinical practice for years in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, specializing in children's and issues and she was active in the Juvenile Justice system. She moved to Sarasota, Florida where she specialized in gerontology. Following her retirement, she became a caregiver for her husband for over a decade. The gradual cognitive and physical decline of her husband inspired her to write a no-holds-barred accounting of the caregiving roles. After her husband's death in 2016, Dr. Pirnot volunteered at the Women's Center. She does art work and woodworking as a hobby.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding by Dr. Karen Hutchins Pirnot is a wonderful and simply amazing memoir that had me on the verge of tears. The emotions are so raw, the feelings so deep and the people so real that I had a hard time finishing this book. But I did finish it, even if I felt like my heart was breaking in my chest. Their story was so moving, but it was also endearing. The connection between the author and her husband was touching. She took care of her husband as if her life depended upon it and he loved her and adored her, even though his mind was slipping away from him. Charlie and Karen loved each other dearly and when they vowed through “sickness and health,” they truly meant it.

Charlie and Karen had a good, fulfilling life that was filled with love and affection for each other. They trusted each other and spent a great chunk of their lives together, so when the tragedy hit, it was obvious that they would be together in it as well. Charlie had Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and cancer, so Karen did what she had always done; she stood by his side and loved him. Karen fought for herself just as much as she fought for Charlie. The author shared her tips and tools that will help couples like these two combat these diseases and make it just a little bit easier for them to cope with their situation and emerge fighting. I was simply touched!

Jamie Michele

With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding by Dr. Karen Hutchins Pirnot is the author's memoir, chronicling the journey of her marriage, particularly after her husband Charlie is diagnosed with the chronic neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer's. He is also afflicted by Parkinson's Disease and, eventually, prostate cancer. Over the course of ten years and when the couple is in their seventies, Karen recounts the progression of Charlie's dementia and the impact it has on their day to day lives, while also reminiscing over the life they shared, one which Charlie—a university professor who had served in the Navy—was slowly beginning to forget. Karen is honest about everything without undermining the love, affection, and dedication she has for Charlie, even when Charlie is no longer capable of returning these things in the same way. She writes, “They were a couple about the same age as us. I listened to the ease of the conversation and I saw how the man would sometimes reach over and lovingly touch his wife.” She goes on to say that she felt jealousy toward the couple, fighting back tears when the wife wishes her well.

I just loved this story, With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding. Truly. Dr. Karen Hutchins Pirnot writes with such love it's impossible not to get pulled into the story...her story. Their story. As she writes, her voice is strong and dignified, much like Charlie had always been himself. But the story also carries in it the frailty that humanizes the pair in the face of hardship; one where the difficulties feel insurmountable for many and where there is rarely, if ever, an upbeat ending. I'm so grateful that Karen and Charlie shared their story and would absolutely recommend it to those who are in similar circumstances...but also to those who want to see what unconditional love really looks like.

Romuald Dzemo

What does it feel like to take care of a man suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? In With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding by Dr. Karen Hutchins Pirnot, readers encounter a very brilliant man who not only suffers from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease but also has cancer. The story follows him as he struggles to make sense of a world that is becoming stranger to him while his wife stays by his side, patiently guiding him to safety. But can any caregiver help anyone with Alzheimer's to remember who they are, no matter how brilliant they have been? This is the story of Charlie, one that explores the meaning of love in ways readers hardly encounter in most narratives and in real life.

From the very beginning, the author describes a scene with Charlie, who is driving them back home. At an intersection, he asks a question that startles his wife and that is very revealing of his deteriorating state of mental health: ‘He slowed the car and brought it to a halt right in the middle of the road. He turned to me with a look of confusion on his face. “Where’s our house?” he asked in a state of near panic...’” The author writes in the first person narrative voice and the scenes are poignantly captured. The voice is warm, strong, and compassionate and it feels so true, so real, so close to home, even to those who have never experienced these conditions. The reader is treated to a love story that knows no boundaries, a story that is told in a captivating voice. The author succeeds in arousing powerful emotions in readers. With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding is filled with love and pathos and readers will empathize with the author's journey. Dr. Karen Hutchins Pirnot's book is inspiring, a story that opens readers' eyes to a world where people caring for Alzheimer’s patients can find strength and encouragement. Loved every bit of it.

K.C. Finn

With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding is a deeply gripping and engaging work of non-fiction penned by author Dr. Karen Hutchins Pirnot. Focused on the subject of living with progressively degenerative diseases, we are invited into the personal life of the author as Dr. Pirnot shares her personal experience of caring for a loved one with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as developing cancer. As the once-brilliant Charlie finds his brain and body failing him, his wife Karen sticks by his side to do whatever is necessary to care for him to the end of his journey. What results is a graphic and often harrowing account of watching a loved one decline, but also a powerful tale of human strength and fortitude.

This superbly well-written account presents a raw and truthful version of events, with no unpleasant detail glossed over. Author Dr. Karen Hutchins Pirnot creates a brave and personal narrative with both compassion and detail, charting the highs and lows of her husband Charlie’s descent and eventual death due to his many ailments. An account that relates deeply to caregivers and their everyday struggles, this book is also for anyone who needs to open their eyes to the people around them; to take care of themselves and those that they love. The scenes are handled with careful balance and thought, offering personal emotion at times as well as relevant and important factors for consideration for caregivers at other times. Overall, With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding is a brave and important work that everyone ought to read.

Gisela Dixon

With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding by Dr. Karen Hutchins Pirnot is a non-fiction memoir where Karen talks about her own personal experience as a caregiver for her husband who had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease among other things. In this book, Karen draws upon her experience not only as a spouse and primary caregiver to her husband but also as a professional clinical psychologist who has worked with many elderly people for this and other issues. The first part of the book focuses on Karen’s and her husband’s initial and later experience with Alzheimer’s and dementia, among other things, and the daily symptoms that presented themselves as the disease steadily progressed. It includes personal anecdotes and day-to-day experiences with daily tasks and chores as her husband Charlie gets progressively more forgetful and the burden of responsibility falls more on Karen’s shoulders. The second part of the book deals with decline and the end stage of the disease. There are also several tips for caregivers provided at the end of the book.

With Fingers Crossed and Love Unyielding is a well-written, raw memoir that tells the truth about geriatric illnesses and the gradual progress of disease such as Alzheimer’s. I liked that this is not just a story of caregiving but is also a story of love and functional family relationships. The pride that Karen takes in her family and their bonding and closeness with each other is nice and the way the family is supportive and truly cares about the patient is also refreshing. Karen writes in an empathetic manner about her husband but also about her own anger, irritation, and struggles with this condition as she does her best to deal with it. I appreciated her genuine care and concern for Charlie’s well-being. This is a good book for caregivers and patients alike to gain better insight into the condition.