Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Light Between Oceans

By M. L. Stedman
Scribner, July 2012

About the Book

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.

My Review

I was swept away by this story, which begins in 1926. First, the setting is intriguing and a world apart from my life. Trying to imagine the pristine beauty of such a isolated place, together with the loneliness a place like that would evoke, pulled me in.

Second, the moral dilemma. Who would know or even care that they’d taken this baby as their own? A woman’s sweater was found in the boat, leading them to believe that the baby’s mother had probably drowned. But when they find out the truth, and the child has already bonded with them, can they keep the secret?

What a great premise for a story. One thing I liked is that it took us to the future after this event to show us the impact of this couple’s choices and the healing that takes place.

A beautifully told story.

Cindy Thomson
Grace’s Pictures, Tyndale House Publishers, 2013
Annie’s Stories, Tyndale House Publishers, 2014

Twitter: @cindyswriting

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