Synopses & Reviews
What do women talk about when they know they don't have forever? They talk about what they have always talked about, only they go deeper and more honest: with outrageous humor they try to mitigate pain. Intimate and uncensored sharing, the kind of connection women prize, is at the heart of this deeply moving novel about the grit and power of female friends.
Ann and Ruth have always talked as only great friends can--honestly, and about everything: husbands and marriages, sex lives and children, their work, their hopes, their disappointments, and their dreams. For Ann, cautious and conventional, her closeness to the outspoken and eccentric Ruth brings about discovery and liberation, a chance to say whatever she wants, and, most important, under the insistent tutelage of Ruth, to become herself. Over the years, the women have shared recipes, quilting patterns, child care, delicate and dangerous secrets. Each rests secure in the knowledge that they will be friends forever. Then something happens that will change their lives forever, and the women begin to share something more profound than either of them might have predicted.
Written with an unerring ear for how women talk, laugh, and cry together, and with a gift for capturing the uniqueness of personality, "Talk Before Sleep is sure to find a place in readers' hearts.
Cautious, conventional Anne shares a deep bond of friendship with the outspoken and eccentric Ruth, building an honest, open relationship that evolves into something deeper when Ruth is diagnosed with cancer. Reader's Guide included. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.
About the Author
Elizabeth Berg is the New York Times
bestselling author of many novels, including We Are All Welcome Here
, The Year of Pleasures
, The Art of Mending, Say When, True to Form, Never Change,
and Open House,
which was an Oprahs Book Club selection in 2000. Durable Goods
and Joy School
were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for the ABBY Award in 1996. The winner of the 1997 New England Booksellers Award for her body of work, Berg is also the author of a nonfiction work, Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True.
She lives in Chicago.
To schedule a speaking engagement, please contact American Program Bureau at www.apbspeakers.com
Reading Group Guide
1. What were your ﬁrst impressions of Ann and Ruth? Who do you identify with more? Who do you think would be more fun to be around? Who would make a better friend?
2. What did you think of Elizabeth Bergs decision to construct her novel by going back and forth between the past and present? What did you like,or dislike,about this narrative structure?
3. How would the book have been different if Ruth was the narrator, instead of Ann? Would the story have been the same? Why or why not, and in what ways?
4. As she reﬂects on the male/female dynamic, Ann thinks, “The truth is, we usually only show our unhappiness to another woman. I suppose this is one of our problems. And yet it is also one of our strengths” (page 29). What do you think about this statement? Is it true for Ann and the other women in this novel? Is it true for you and your friends?
5. Berg gives us such rich, vivid, eclectic female characters.What did you make of L.D, Sarah, and Helen? How do these women, along with Ann and Ruth, interact as a group? Do they seem like women you would like to spend time with? Why or why not?
6. Ann and Ruth have many discussions about Ruths extramarital affairs. Ann conﬁdes that she has thought about cheating, but that she worries she would get caught. Ruth tells her, “But after the ﬁrst lie, it gets so much easier. Its disappointing, in a way, how easy it is” (page 47). Is Ruth right, does lying get easier as you go along? What do you think Ann really thinks about her best friends behavior? Do you think Ann would every cheat on Joe?
7. Are Ann and Ruth really so different? Ann tells Ruth, “I mean, youre my best friend. I admire you. But were very different” (page 138). Do you believe her? Or do Ruth and Ann have more in common than they might care to admit? Why are the women hesitant to admit their similarities? Discuss.
8. Ann and Ruth have very different relationships with their husbands, Joe and Eric, and their children, Meggie and Michael. Discuss these relationships and how they help shape the two women.
9. After Ruth reveals a huge secret about her marriage, Ann reﬂects, “How can I love a woman I basically disapprove of?” (page 97) Does Ann really disapprove of Ruth? Why or why not? Have you ever loved someone you didnt approve of?
10. What did you think of Ruths decision to go stay with her brother in Florida, at the end of her life? How did her friends react? How would you have reacted?
11. This novel is unique in that we know what the ending will be before we even start our reading. Was there anything about Ruths death that surprised you? Were you upset by the end of the novel? Uplifted? Both?