The Light Between Oceans
M. L. Stedman
Summary: After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.
The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.
Review: This book was recommended to me as "the best book I've ever read!" by a member of my book club, so I think part of my problem was that my expectations were too high. The story is well-written, and the descriptions of life, places, and lighthouse keeping were interesting and informative without being dry. I sympathized with Tom throughout the novel, and while I understood the choice he made, I didn't think that it fit within his character. While I expected to sympathize with Isabel, as well, I found myself wondering whether she perhaps had a mental disorder. I could not fathom how else she would have changed from a happy, whimsical girl to a woman unwilling to listen to reason, even considering the miscarriages she had experienced. At the heart of this story, I believe, is the question of what it means to be a good mother, and I do not believe that anyone in this story acted in the best interests of the child. Certainly we will have a lot to discuss in our book club!
Rating: 4 stars (I thought it was well-written and raised lots of interesting questions, but I struggled to like it because I didn't like any of the characters.)