I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Published by Scribner on July 31, 2012
The debut of a stunning new voice in fiction— a novel both heartbreaking and transcendent
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.
‘There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.’
‘The Light Between Oceans’ is a historical fiction story with a dash of enough ‘contemporary lit’ to keep both fans of the genres entertained. This is the story of Tom Sherbourne and his wife Isabel who together made a tough decision years back but are only now being confronted with the fact that their decision was life-changing and unknowingly had a drastic impact on someone else’s life.
The story starts off one-sided telling the story of Isabel and Tom and the boat carrying a dead man and a baby just a few months old that they found washed up on the shores of Janus Rock. When on leave from Janus, Isabel and Tom discover the truth that Lucy’s mother, Hannah, is still alive. Her side of the story is finally told and it’s revealed just how Lucy came to be in a boat washed up on shore. Both sides of the story are truly heart-breaking and good luck trying to determine a ‘side’. Isabel has lost 3 children after 2 miscarriages and 1 stillbirth and fears that she will never be able to mother a child like she’s also dreamed of. After learning about Hannah, Isabel becomes resolved to continuing life as they have been because she feels it’s far too late to do anything at this point. Tom is not as easily convinced but doesn’t wish to take Isabel’s ‘only child’ and doesn’t want to take Lucy away from the only life she’s ever known. Isabel nor Tom can be easily painted wrong. I was mesmerized at how this heartbreaking tale could possibly end.
‘Time and again, Tom wondered at the hidden recesses of Isabel’s mind – the spaces where she managed to bury the turmoil his own mind couldn’t escape.’
The writing was quite beautiful despite the beginning being pretty slow going with all the details of Tom’s army days and his days alone on the island before Isabel joined him. There were also some detailed sections regarding the lighthouse and the upkeep and the overall importance of them. It didn’t go overboard with the details either but gave you enough detail to keep it interesting. So why only 3 stars? I was completely wrapped up in this story and couldn’t put it down, but then I’m not quite sure where exactly, but it veered into what I like to call ‘Lifetime movie territory’. Doesn’t mean the story went bad or anything but it just lost me a bit with the overabundance of drama. It seemed inevitable how this story would and should end and it felt like it was drawn out too much. Intriguing story, yes, but wasn’t anything that necessarily blew me away.