Title: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc
Length: 369 pages
Book Rating: B
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island 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, where they are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M.L. Stedman’s debut novel The Light Between Oceans is a beautifully written story that is haunting, heartrending and quite thought-provoking. The line between right and wrong is blurred when Tom and Isabel Sherbourne make a fateful decision which will have long-lasting and far-reaching repercussions.
Wracked by survivor’s guilt and forever changed by his war experiences, Tom Sherbourne finds a measure of peace in the solitary life as a lighthouse keeper. He finds comfort in the daily routines and rigid structure that his duties demand. As he is about to begin a new post at the isolated Janus Rock lighthouse, Tom meets the much younger but utterly captivating Isabel Graysmark.
Isabel is a charming and lively young woman. She is the perfect counterpart to silent, introspective Tom and she is the driving force in their relationship. Since their time together is limited, much of their courtship takes place through letters. Following their marriage, Isabel is enchanted with Janus Rock and eagerly explores her new home. She enjoys their privacy and her playfulness is a sharp counterpoint to Tom’s seriousness.
Isabel and Tom are both delighted to learn of Isabel’s pregnancy, but their joy soon turns to sorrow as Isabel miscarries her first two pregnancies and her third ends in stillbirth. When the boat with baby and the dead man washes up on the shore of Janus Rock, for Isabel, her prayers have been answered. For Tom, a moral dilemma is born. Keep the baby and live a lie? Or turn the baby over to the authorities and destroy his wife?
Over the years, the decision weighs heavily on Tom’s conscience. His love for Isabel and baby Lucy is tempered by his guilt. A shocking discovery puts Tom and Isabel on an unavoidable collision course that will tear apart many lives and exposes the shockingly thin line between right and wrong.
The Light Between Oceans is a complex novel that is full of strong emotion and moral ambiguity. It is sometimes utterly heartbreaking as the key players are faced with decisions that have no clear answers. M.L. Stedman takes the story in unanticipated directions and keeps the reader in suspense as she masterfully brings the story to its unexpected yet perfect conclusion. .
A compelling read that will stay with long after the novel ends and the only question left unanswered is what would you do?