Determined not to like Ruth Thomas, Ann Stanley is immediately smitten by her charm and force of personality, and especially by her vitality--a vitality that too soon succumbs to breast cancer. As one of a cadre of women almost obsessively devoted to the care of a dying Ruth, Ann nurses Ruth through her final illness, until--in a move curiously like the decision of Charity (also dying of cancer) to keep Sid, her husband, sequestered from her final trip to the hospital, in Wallace Stegner's far superior novel, Crossing to Safety--Ruth flies to Florida to die at her brother's house.


As a narrative of Ruth's suffering, loneliness (despite her almost suffocating surround of exclusively female friends, including a fiercely misanthropic and aggressive homosexual--but ultimately sensitive--woman named "L.D."), depression, and trying to figure out what dying is all about, this novel is quite effective in depicting the interactions amongst women in a group; the agony of one of those women dying before her time; and how the group and individual continually behave towards each other, singly and as a corporate entity. Unfortunately, like many books with much pathos, Talk Before Sleep often missteps into the territory of bathos.

Equally unfortunately, the book is mortally flawed in its two-dimensional portrayal of men as unfeeling husbands, doctors, and family. With the anemic exception of Joel, one male friend who can only be described as too little, too late, the men in this book are laughable caricatures who do nothing to lend a sense of balance and fairness to this author's otherwise obvious talent for narrative.


Random House

Place Published

New York



Page Count