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Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg
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Talk Before Sleep (original 1997; edition 1994)

by Elizabeth Berg

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1,050None8,008 (3.77)11
Member:Jennifer44
Title:Talk Before Sleep
Authors:Elizabeth Berg
Info:Random House (1994), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 210 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
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Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg (1997)

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What I took away from it was true friendship. Nothing can really be learned from any of the characters in how to deal with a friend dying from cancer; they each dealt in their own way but it wasn't written in great detail as to how they felt, it just skimmed the surface. So this would not be looked to as a book used to gain information on how to personally deal with a similar situation. Nor is it appropriate for anyone under 18 or so due to inappropriate adult situations and language. Since the most powerful message I got from the book is how solid and true a girl/girl friendship can be, I guess I would have to say that I've read better. It not even closely brought a tear to my eye, but the death wasn't really a bombshell either.
  PamGam | Feb 12, 2013 |
Especially in her earliest novels, Elizabeth Berg is the literary equivalent of a hug -- short, women’s-friendship stories that are full of spot-on observations and emotional truths.

In this one, Ann, who (though married) “hadn’t realized how much {she’d} been needing to meet someone {she} might be able to say everything to” until she met Ruth, now finds herself one in a small group of caregivers as Ruth declines from metastatic breast cancer. It’s a tender story, and while I didn’t particularly like Ruth nor accept the depth of their friendship, I did feel the weight of Ann’s caregiving.

When the work gets too hard, you stop talking about it. You just try to do it.
...
{My husband and daughter} are going to {a store} to get light bulbs. I am ashamed at what I am feeling: I want to go, too. I want to walk up and down long aisles, saying, “Let’s see. Q-tips? Do we need shampoo?” I want doormats and polyester blouses and matched sets of mixing bowls to be the only thing in my head.
...
Women do not leave situations like this: we push up our sleeves, lean in closer, and say, “What do you need? Tell me what you need and by God I will do it.” {…} I’ve heard that when elephants are attacked they often run, not away, but toward each other. Perhaps it is because they are a matriarchal society.
...
How is it that we dare to honk at others in traffic, when we know nothing about where they have just come from or what they are on their way to?
( )
  DetailMuse | Jul 3, 2012 |
Another great book by this writer, my third. This one is about a group of friends caring for one of their own dying of cancer. Told by Ann, the closest friend to the patient, Ruth. Ruth is very popular with a great melange of friends - tough, butch L.D., professional pretty Sarah, sophisticated, gorgeous Helen, and adoring, delicate, hard-loving, true-blue Ruth. Really good, fast read - difficult to read since I mostly read it on the busy bus from work and had to choke back sobs and sniffles...Actually had to leave the last little bit to finish at home so as not to embarrass myself... ( )
  daddyofattyo | Nov 20, 2011 |
I wish I could have liked this at all given the subject and inspiration for the novel. It's a story told by Ann in first person about her best friend Ruth who is dying of cancer. The story is mostly told in present tense, but there are frequent flashbacks telling us about their friendship in the past tense. I don't have complaints about the style. It's fine, even if not something that invokes writer's envy. My problem is that the story and characters left me cold.

A note from the author says the book was inspired by the need to express the "emotional truth" about her loss of a "very important friend" to breast cancer. Maybe those who've survived cancer or lost someone they loved to that disease will resonate more with this story. The thing is, I think part of the problem is that it was too centered on her illness and coming death. I recently read Alice Hoffman's The Probable Future and a central character there is dying of cancer. I found her situation much more poignant and moving I think partly because it dealt more with her living her life while dying. Despite Berg's claim that this was grounded in her personal experience, I also found it hard to credit someone within weeks of dying of the disease would be able to pig out on lobster and fries.

Besides which, I find it hard to be moved by a story of a dying friend and her immortal friendship if I utterly despise the character. And the truth is I hated Ruth with the heat of a thousand suns without once getting the feeling we were meant to. Something in her personality I can't point to rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning, but I soon got plenty of reasons I can articulate to loathe her more and more with every page. She claims her husband is "manipulative" and cold but says she doesn't divorce him for the sake of their nine-year-old son. That doesn't stop her though from casual serial infidelity--she's sure she won't get caught. Worse, she encourages her friend, who also has a young child, to do the same. But worst of all? She asks her friend to lie for her to her husband. That's when I lost all potential sympathy. That's not the act of a friend, but a user. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Nov 7, 2011 |
When Ruth and Ann first met, they didn’t like each other. But another encounter in a bathroom got them talking and realizing they had more in common than first thought. Eventually they became best friends, sharing movies, sundaes, kids and truths about their marriages. Then one day Ruth discovers a lump in her breast and their friendship faces a harsh test.

I’ve been lucky and have not had to face this with a good friend. I only hope that should that come up, I can face it with the humor, thoughtfulness, dignity, and closeness that Ruth and Ann shared, along with their other good friends. The story will stay with me for a long time. ( )
  punxsygal | Apr 12, 2010 |
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Native American saying-Source unknown
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For women with cancer who have found their fire, and for those who are still searching
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This morning before I came to Ruth's house, I made yet another casserole for my husband and my daughter.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345491254, Paperback)

"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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:42 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

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 are 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 Ruth is diagnosed with cancer, and everything changes; the women begin to share something more profound than either of them might have predicted...… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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