Talk Before Sleep: A Novel

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Talk Before Sleep: A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

Random House Publishing Group | November 28, 2006 | Trade Paperback |

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"Until that moment, I hadn''t realized how much I''d been needing to meet someone I might be able to say everything to."

They met at a party.  It was hate at first sight.  Ruth was far too beautiful, too flamboyant.  Not at all Ann''s kind of person.  Until a chance encounter in the bathroom led to an alliance of souls.  Soon they were sharing hankies during the late showing of "Sophie''s Choice," wolfing down sundaes sodden with whipped cream, telling truths of marriage, mortality, and love, secure in a kind of intimacy no man could ever know.  Only best friends understand devil''s food cake for breakfast when nothing else will do.  After years of shared secrets, guilty pleasures, family life and divorce, they face a crisis that redefines the meaning of friendship and unconditional love.


From the Paperback edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 240 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: November 28, 2006

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345491254

ISBN - 13: 9780345491251

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– More About This Product –

Talk Before Sleep: A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 240 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: November 28, 2006

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345491254

ISBN - 13: 9780345491251

Read from the Book

This morning, before I came to Ruth''s house, I made yet another casserole for my husband and my daughter. Meggie likes casseroles while Joe only endures them, but they are all I can manage right now. I put the dish in the refrigerator, with a note taped on it telling how long to cook it, and at what temperature, and that they should have a salad, too. Next I did a little laundry--washed Meggie''s favorite skirt, then laid it on top of the dryer and pressed the pleats in with the flat of my hand. I love doing this because I love the smell of laundry soap and the memory it brings of lying outside on warm days, watching my mother peg huge white bedsheets onto the clothesline. Those sheets glowed with the light blue color white clothes radiate when they are extremely clean. My mother seemed to be fighting with them sometimes, muttering at them as best she could through the wooden clothespins she held in her mouth, insisting that they stay anchored in one place while they pulled and yanked to be free, their wet snapping sounds a protest. I always thought maybe we should let them go. Maybe they had a mission. Maybe the sheets were really people who had started all over again, come back on some low rung and now were ready to fly up to heaven for a promotion--say to a paramecium. I viewed all things on the earth as equal, in terms of the Grand Scheme. Vice presidents and river rocks had nothing up on each other. So the cotton fibers of a bedsheet could easily return as a simple form
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From the Publisher

"Until that moment, I hadn''t realized how much I''d been needing to meet someone I might be able to say everything to."

They met at a party.  It was hate at first sight.  Ruth was far too beautiful, too flamboyant.  Not at all Ann''s kind of person.  Until a chance encounter in the bathroom led to an alliance of souls.  Soon they were sharing hankies during the late showing of "Sophie''s Choice," wolfing down sundaes sodden with whipped cream, telling truths of marriage, mortality, and love, secure in a kind of intimacy no man could ever know.  Only best friends understand devil''s food cake for breakfast when nothing else will do.  After years of shared secrets, guilty pleasures, family life and divorce, they face a crisis that redefines the meaning of friendship and unconditional love.


From the Paperback edition.

From the Jacket

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.

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 Oprah's 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  

Editorial Reviews

"You''ll want to give a copy to  every good woman friend you have." -- The Charlotte Observer

"Entertaining, finely crafted Elizabeth Berg tackles serious  issues with grace" -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Tender and irreverant by turns, it offers mature intelligent and  buoyant spirit, like a very good  friend." -- Houston Post


From the Paperback edition.

Bookclub 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 Berg's 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 Ruth's 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. It's 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 friend's behavior? Do you think Ann would every cheat on Joe?

7. Are Ann and Ruth really so different? Ann tells Ruth, "I mean, you're my best friend. I admire you. But we're 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 didn't approve of?

10. What did you think of Ruth's 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 Ruth's death that surprised you? Were you upset by the end of the novel? Uplifted? Both?

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