Till Human Voices Wake Us by Patti DavisWhat constitutes a family? “Families are formed and re-formed for many different reasons.If one is lucky, the family they’re part of has been formed from love.” This quote from Till Human Voices Wake Us is a wonderful description of this beautiful story.

The book opens with Isabelle Berendon waking from a dream where she is trying to save her son from drowning.  Every time she has the dream, she is almost able to save him.  Then she wakes up and realizes it isn’t a dream.  Nathan, her three year old son, drowned in the family swimming pool when someone forgot to put the latch on the screen door, and he wandered out.  Her husband blames Isabelle for Nathan’s death and turns away from her.  The only member of the Berendon family who enters Isabelle’s grief with her is her sister-in-law, Iris.

Isabelle and Iris are married to Thomas and Peter Berendon, respectively.  The Berendons own a chain of fashionable department stores that have made their family wealthy.  Iris grew up in wealth, but Isabelle came from a poor family.  Her father was an alcoholic who stole everything they had, and her mother is a former dancer who prefers to live in her own fantasy world.  Being married to Thomas affords Isabelle a life she could only dream about and helps pay to keep her mother in the house she doesn’t want to leave.

As Isabelle tries to negotiate life after Nathan’s death, Iris seems to be the only one willing to listen to her and comfort her in her loss.  As they spend more and more time together, the women come to the realization that there is more to their relationship than friendship.  They fall deeply in love with one another and divorce their husbands to be together.  Since the Berendons are a well known family, this creates a scandal.  Iris’ parents disown her and Thomas gives Isabelle their Malibu beach house in the divorce settlement to get them out of town.  Marjorie, Thomas’ daughter from his first marriage, doesn’t want to live with him and moves in with Isabelle and Iris.  Over the course of the novel, Isabelle and Iris welcome other family members and friends into their home.  They, literally, create their own family out of love.

“Till Human Voices Wake Us” is a well written and totally absorbing novel.  The book shows what true love really is and how these two women achieve it.