Wormie's Reviews > Talk Before Sleep

Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg
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Mar 31, 2007

it was amazing
Recommended for: women over 35


Talk Before Sleep is a novel that overwhelmed me. I became totally involved with the characters, and find myself unable to analyze this book or discuss it unemotionally. It is a novel that I actually “felt” – the emotion is real, strong, and beautiful, and if there are flaws with the book’s structure, I am unable to identify them. The experience of reading this novel was rich, personal and deeply moving.

Talk Before Sleep is a novel about women and about the bonds between them. It is a story about friendship, personal growth, fear, love and faith.

Ann Stanley and Ruth Thomas are in their early 40s, and are the best of friends. They are like soul mates; sharing their joy and pain, hopes and disappointments.
When Ruth is diagnosed with breast cancer, she, Ann, and a small but tight group of friends find their world turned upside down. They are forced to deal with the painful reality of Ruth’s illness, and the shocking fragility of her mortality. Berg writes the book from Ann’s perspective, but manages to share the hopes and fears of every woman in this circle of friends. What the reader takes away is a very moving story about strength, loyalty and love.

“She had one lung removed. I brought her a huge bouquet, purple and blue for healing, white because she loved white, and no carnations because she hated them. I gave her chest tube a name, Charles, because she was afraid of it. I held her hand when they pulled it. “Now,” she said, after they’d put a dressing on. “Back to business. I’m really tired of these constant interruptions.” She said something like that after she found out it was in her bones, too. Then, when it was in her brain, she quit saying it. When the work gets too hard, you stop talking about it. You just try to do it.” (Talk Before Sleep, page 114)

It is passages like this one that totally absorbed me into this novel. Berg doesn’t share detailed descriptions of the progression of the cancer. She doesn’t discuss the physical manifestations of the disease. Rather, she subtly shares the experience of each of these women, and how dealing with Ruth’s illness changes their lives and their awareness of each other.

Berg shares the importance of friendship between women, and how we are somehow more whole when we share our lives with our female friends. Through these women and their interactions, we witness personal growth in these women, and we are inspired by their strength. Berg’s writing makes it easy for the reader to also see the strength and growth in ourselves.

I won’t ruin the story for you, if I tell you that Ruth does succumb to her disease, and that, after an admirable fight, she leaves this world and her closest friends behind. The story, however, is not one of sadness and death, it is one of faith and of the power of love to survive death and loss.

“I don’t want to take anything,“ I say. “I want to leave things for you to come back to.”

She nods, and I see the shine of tears in her eyes as she looks around her bedroom. “I don’t think I’m coming back, though.”

“But I want you to,“ I say. I am being nonsensical. I am acting like a child, I know it. This can’t be helping her.

“I will come back as a little breeze, “ she says. “You will feel me on your face, and you will know that I’m still listening. So you can still talk to me.”

(Talk Before Sleep, page 183)

Obviously I recommend this book. It is a book that I want to share with my women friends; a book that reminds me that even when life is hard, I am blessed with true friends, and with their love and support.
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