Talk Before Sleep Teacher’s Guide

By Elizabeth Berg

Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg

READERS GUIDE

Questions and Topics for Discussion

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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