Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Talk Before Sleep” as Want to Read:
Talk Before Sleep
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Talk Before Sleep

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  10,838 ratings  ·  831 reviews
"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 o
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 28th 2006 by Ballantine Books (first published 1993)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Talk Before Sleep, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Linda Frances There are 2 men in my small book club group. They felt that this was very anti-men. I agree.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,838 ratings  ·  831 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Talk Before Sleep
Mar 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it 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 abo
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this book when it was first written and then again a few years ago.
I gave it to my mother to read as well as a few friends. It became a favorite and remains one still.

I was about 21 when it first came out. I was interested in the friendships of the women in the story and now that I am older I feel I relate even more to the issues surrounding them.
Elizabeth Berg knows how to write about women.

This is a novel about true friendship, love, and loss. The feelings of love the friends have for
Connie G
Elizabeth Berg is an expert at writing dialogue between women, and expressing how women draw strength and understanding from their close female friends. In "Talk Before Sleep" Ann Stanley is helping to care for her best friend, Ruth Thomas, in her losing fight with metastatic breast cancer. She is joined by three other friends of Ruth who each offer support in their own way.

Ann is a former nurse, a quiet woman who is devoted to her family. Ruth, an artist, is more unconventional and spontaneous.
Julie Ehlers
This is a novel about two middle-aged women, Ruth and Ann, best friends, one of whom is dying of cancer, the other of whom is taking care of her. The scenes concerning Ruth's illness are interspersed with flashback-style scenes depicting Ruth and Ann's friendship in the years before she became sick. The scenes regarding Ruth's cancer and Ann's caretaking were sometimes beautiful and wise. The flashback scenes were typical women's fiction stuff where they complained endlessly about their husbands ...more
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This would make a great fictional counterpart to Gail Caldwell’s Let’s Take the Long Way Home and Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, books that celebrate the strength of female friendship. Ruth, a divorcee with a college-age son, is dying of metastatic breast cancer and Ann and their group of friends have become like her substitute family, trading overnight shifts at Ruth’s house and bringing her extravagant treats like ice cream and lobster with McDonald’s French fries to distract from the pa ...more
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the kind of novel I normally don't love to read. It is probably chick lit and it is definitely meant to be a tear-jerker. The thing is, I have watched the slow death of someone I love and I think Berg probably has as well. She gets some of the most important aspects of that right.

"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?"

"I remember the exact order of the canned soup in the cupboard,
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short and oh so sweet and moving. The bonds between friends becomes evident when Ann cares for Ruth, her long time best friend with breast cancer who is in her last days before death consumes her. There are many funny conversations but the heart felt conversations are real and poignant. Life and marriage and motherhood are touched upon and this is a book to be felt deeply.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Nov 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
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
Shari Larsen
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A beautifully told story about two best friends, Ann and Ruth, and what happens after Ruth is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Not only is Ann by her side, but also Ruth's small but eclectic group of her other friends gather by her side also, and each person helps Ruth in her own unique way.

I was drawn to this story because I also have terminal breast cancer, and I was glad to see the author tackle this subject (she also lost a good friend to breast cancer) and tell the truth about it; tha
Mar 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: women who know what it's like to have a true friend in another woman
Quick read, but very deep very best. Your typical two best women friends - one is outgoing, free-spirited & artistic, the other is quiet, reserved & safe. The fun one gets a terminal illness, the safe one narrates. And that's where the "run-of-the-mill" feel ends. The does a beautiful job of telling a story without overdoing it, and painting a picture of what it's like to love someone who's dying without doing the experience the injustice of making everything neat and predictible. Having worked ...more
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was the second Elizabeth Berg book I have read. A co-worker was moved by this book and recommended it. I just don't seem to connect with this particular author. Especially with this topic, I didn't feel as much as I think I should.
♥ Marlene♥
Probably not the right book for me at this time of my life. My oldest sister is dying from colon cancer and my dad was diagnosed this year with the same sickness, colon cancer but hopefully we were on time.

With all that going on I have obviously been thinking a lot about death over the last past months.

I have read about 65% of it and yes it is hard for me to read but still a good book with some interesting parts that I highlighted on my kindle;

This one. "I want to mean something,I want it to mat
Feb 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book is about a friendship between two very different women. Ann, a pretty traditional homemaker/mother and her best friend, Ruth, who is "beautiful and flamboyant"---quite unlike Ann. No spoiler here: from the beginning of the book, you learn that Ruth is dying of late stage breast cancer, and is being cared for at her home by numerous friends, the closest of whom is Ann. Despite the sad situation of Ruth's dying, I found her to be a very unlikeable, selfish and shallow person, and had a h ...more
Kara Hansen
“Our conversations are silly...But they are comforting to both of us, I know. They remind me of what we talk about before we go to sleep...”

3.5 stars. This is the second book by Berg that I have read in the last month. An author that I am now on the hunt for more of her books. This was one of her earlier works. Talk Before Sleep brings us the friendship between Ruth and Ann. Told from the perspective of Ann, she reflects on how she met Ruth, and the friendship that developed over the years. It i
Lynne Spreen
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: midlife
Most of us read to be enlightened or moved. This book did both. On one level, it's a story about girlfriends, and how women need each other. On another, and this is the main theme I think, it's about treasuring what you have and treating yourself well in your own life. There's a scene in here about Ann preparing a fussy, precisely made breakfast for Ruth, who is sick. Ruth aggravates Ann by sending her back to the kitchen to improve the meal. Ann thinks, What a bitch! But complies. And then when ...more
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
In this heartbreaking novel about love and letting go, Ann chronicles the powerful story of her best friend Ruth's struggle with breast cancer: from diagnosis, to denial, to fear, and finally to acceptance, as well as sharing her own experience in coping with the tragic truth and nurturing her friend as best as she can. The author superbly captures the female experience, both in the dialogue and actions of the characters. All of her characters are realistic and so easy to relate to, and she real ...more
May 05, 2015 rated it liked it
I won't rest until I've read every word Elizabeth Berg has written, but though her writing was, of course, beautiful, I didn't like these characters.

If the main character hadn't been sick (no spoiler alert, you learn this on page six, or the back cover, if you read those), I wouldn't have felt any sympathy for her character. She was selfish and unlikeable.

Still EB brings even a mediocre book about illness up with her prose and themes.

If you want to read a beautiful book about women and friendshi
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible book. I bawled my eyes out. Ms. Berg just made the emotion of losing a dear friend to breast cancer so real. This was a book of incredible friendship and love. It reminded me how important it is to be happy in the moment, to find joy in the people in your life. I loved the quirky characters, they were all so real by the end of the book.

This was just an amazingly beautiful book. Everytime I feel a breeze, I'll be reminded of this book and of the eternity of friendships and our
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
A beutiful story of the strength and individuality of women. A tribute to friendship, love, death and dying. This is a book that I will read yearly to remind me of the importence of love and friendship. Loved the group of women. A touching book.
New author for 2011.
Kim Whitley-Gaynor
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books of all time. It's a little gem. I gave a copy to my aunt after her sister died of cancer. She loved it. I highly recommend it.
Jess Atkinson
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-challenge
When my mother died, I kept many of her books to read even though she wouldn’t be there to talk to about them. This was one of them.

Part of me wishes I hadn’t read it. It’s a very good book, meaningful and sadly beautiful, but it hits way too close to come. Berg nailed so much in this book—what it’s like to watch the end of someone’s life, the moment when hope falls to reality, the stages of the leaving and pulling away of those who are preparing to leave our world. The solitude of death.

A bea
Havebooks Willread
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Havebooks by: Misti Picton
I don't know what it is about Berg, but she just seems to GET people. I think I'm going to have to search out more of her books for the characterization alone. I don't necessarily love the characters--or even like them--but they are so multi-dimensional and react like real people that I can't help but get sucked in.

This particular book is about women's friendships. Phew--complicated, right? Now add in that Ruth is dying from breast cancer and it gets even more complicated.

I could chat and chat
Mar 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Friends, anyone,
I have read this book about 10 times. I recommend it to my friends and have been known to buy this for friends. I have given this to friends and never gotten back and then bought it again because I have to have it in my "library".

It's a book about friends, three friends, who are drawn closer because of one friends illness, cancer. It's about the progress of her disease and what it does to her friends and their friendship.

I love this author. She was in KC once and I went and listened to her as sh
Mar 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book enabled me to survive and HONOR my lovely sister Leslie's journey through ovarian cancer. She also read the book long before her diagnosis. When she got the message she was terminal I told her I would be her "talk before sleep". She knew exactly what that meant and that I would honor her talking about death. HARD as it may have been, I don't think I would have been as prepared with out this story. READ this WAY BEFORE you need this and please be sure to honor the ability to share someo ...more
May 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books...and Berg is one of my favorite authors. I came across this book when my friend was in college--she was minoring in drama and had to do a "dramatic reading" from this text. I've read it and even listened to it on audio many times...and it never fails to bring me to a place of both overwhelming sadness and sincere thankfulness for my life and the people who have graced it. The pureness of the emotions in this book cleanses me. I feel emotionally drained, yet utte ...more
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is not for you if you are looking for adventure and great plot twists.Berg tells you before the book begins "Not long ago, I lost a very important friend to breast cancer. I wanted to write about my experience in a fictional way, to create characters and events that, although imagined, would testify to the emotional truth of all that happened."

I laughed and cried through this book. I called my best friends to tell them how very much I loved them.

I loved Berg's celebration of the sacre
Jun 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Hard to say which is more depressing: reading this book or seeing a beloved household pet get run over by a car.

The Hartford Courant calls this book "A Triumph". A triumph over what? Joy? Happiness? A direct quote from the book: "I haven't yet let myself feel how grateful I am to be back in my own bed, but I know it's coming. And I know I'd better get ready. Because feeling good will feel awful."

The writing was fine, the sentiments expressed intelligently, but for crying out loud!

Joy Olivia
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you have ever lost a loved one who is also a dear friend to cancer, specifically breast cancer, pick up Talk Before Sleep next time you are at your local library or bookstore. With the turn of the pages I laughed and smiled, and I also cried. It helped me in a unique way to deal with the grief I still have over the death of my lovely and wonderful Aunt Diana last fall. Berg manages to put into eloquent words so many situations and feelings that just ring true. Highly recommended.
Dec 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: booksiveread
I like Elizabeth Berg in general, but this book didn't move me. I know I was supposed to have empathy for at least one character, but they were all so shallow and one-sided that it was hard to care. I thought sending the character with cancer -- whose name I can't even remember now, which tells you a lot how memorable she was -- out of the narrative at the end was a cop out. All in all, I felt this was a weird, uncomfortable book.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Strange Fits of Passion
  • Homeplace
  • Laiškai iš Kabulo
  • That Night
  • Home Grown Kids
  • Better Than School
  • Home-Spun Schools: Teaching Children at home-What Parents Are Doing and How They Are Doing It
  • From Sea to Shining Sea: 1787-1837 (God's Plan for America)
  • Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing And What We Can Learn From Japanese And Chinese Educ
  • How to Study Your Bible
  • The Midwife
  • Musashi: The Way of the Samurai
  • Sweet Land: New and Selected Stories
  • The Turnaround
  • Patty Reed's Doll: The Story of the Donner Party
  • Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance
  • Janice Vancleave's Geometry for Every Kid: Easy Activities That Make Learning Geometry Fun
  • Ancient Rome: How It Affects You Today (Uncle Eric)
See similar books…
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 w ...more

Related Articles

Need another excuse to go to the bookstore this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the week. To create our...
26 likes · 4 comments
“I hadn't realized how much I'd been needing to meet someone I might be able to say everything to.” 309 likes
“I always think incipent miracles surround us, waiting only to see if our faith is strong enough. We won't have to understand it; it will just work, like a beating heart, like love. Really, no matter how frightened and discouraged I may become about the future, I look forward to it. In spite of everything I see all around me every day, I have a shaky assurance that everything will turn out fine. I don't think I'm the only one. Why else would the phrase "everything's all right" ease a deep and troubled place in so many of us? We just don't know, we never know so much, yet we have such faith. We hold our hands over our hurts and lean forward, full of yearning and forgiveness. It is how we keep on, this kind of hope.” 70 likes
More quotes…