Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M.L. Stedman
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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.
It was a slow start and I almost gave up a few times, but it’s a great story once you get into it.
Tom is the lighthouse keeper on Janus Island. It’s a lonely existence, really. He has only his wife, Isabel, for company. A ship visits them every few months to replenish their supplies, and they only visit the outside world every couple of years.
Tom and Isabel are quite happy on their little island. It would probably be perfect, except Isabel suffers through 3 miscarriages, which takes a toll on them both.
One day, Tom discovers a boat with a dead man in it…and a living infant. Isabel, who has just lost her third child, assumes the child is an orphan, and convinces Tom to pretend the child is theirs, because who would ever know the truth? How could anyone ever find out?
It sounds so simple, really. Until they find out the consequences of keeping the child. Because her real mother, Hannah, is alive and lives in Partageuse–the same town Isabel comes from, the same town they visit every few years when Tom reports for official business.
The emotional turmoil of knowing both the happiness of having a child and the ache of losing one haunts them, particularly Tom. Do you give up something that gives you so much happiness because you know it is the cause of someone else’s suffering? Or do you turn your back on that suffering, because you know how much it will destroy you if you give it up?
The book captures all these conflicting emotions very well. Isabel’s selfishness, Tom’s struggle because he’s always wanted to do what is right, Hannah’s agony of struggling through life without the closure of knowing exactly what happened to her child… I struggled along with them all throughout.
My only complaint is that the alternating usage of verbs (past tense to present and back to past tense again) kinda jarred me throughout the whole book. It bothered me so much I’d lose the feel of the story sometimes, haha. But I really liked the writing and the characters.