The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman
Published by: Scribner
Published on: July 31, 2012
Page Count: 352
My Reading Format: Review copy picked up at BEA
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
Tom Sherbourne survived World War II physically, but he returns to Australia with deep emotional wounds. He takes work as a lighthouse keeper. The work suits him. It gives him purpose but is also solitary. When the keeper in charge of Janus Rock needs a temporary replacement, Tom takes the three month post. There he meets Isabel, the young woman who, much to his own surprise, will become his wife when the position on Janus becomes permanent. The two return to the solitary island to make their life. It was a life of heartache, however. Isabel suffers several miscarriages and finally a difficult still birth. Shortly thereafter, a boat washes up on the island. It is the cries of the infant that catch their attention. The man also on board is dead. Tom, a follower of rules and a man of precision, immediately wants to inform the authorities. Isabel, instantly taken with the baby, sees this event as divine intervention and fully intents to add the baby to their family. She names the child Lucy and Tom agrees raise the child as their own blood. Tom’s conscience barely survived the war. Can it survive starting a family on a lie?
The Light Between Oceans is one of the books I hoped to pick up at BEA this year. Lighthouses have always interested me and I have never read a book about a keeper’s life. Keeping a lighthouse up and running is a heavy responsibility. I cannot imagine having nine month assignments with little contact with others. Pair that with being a young wife experiencing the pain and despair of pregnancy loss, I knew that I had to read this book. There was a time when I felt I would ever become a mother, so I could understand what would lead a woman to take up a seemingly abandoned infant and let the world think this was the child for who she had waited so long. As an adoptive mother, I also know that without the conscious decision and blessing of my child’s first mother, I would never feel safe. This decsion had to take a toll on the Sherbournes. I was expecting it while I was hoping that they would simply be a happy family. I could relate to both Tom and Isabel. When the stress fully manifested itself, I was devastated and compelled to keep turning the pages.
ML Stedman has written a powerful novel about the power of guilt, regret, love, and doing what is right. I could feel the light of the sun on my face on Janus Rock and felt despair when Tom wondered whether Lucy, the child who fully captured his heart, would be better off without him. Tom’s deep need for redemption is particularly heartbreaking. This story is told so well. It will grab hold of you and make you think about what is important in life. This novel is sure to be among my favorite books this fall. I highly recommend The Light Between Oceans.