Friday, September 7, 2012

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):    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. 

And here's what I thought:   I really enjoyed this book and actually devoured in it a sitting (it was a Sunday morning, I had my coffee and a cinnamon roll, and I wound up just sitting and reading and reading ......  in all fairness, my husband was also mowing through his book).    I know the plot doesn't sound like this would be a thrilling, page-turner of a read ----- but I got really caught up in the characters, and in their stories, and I just kept reading because I wanted to know what was going to happen.

I liked how the author writes the characters; not only do we see their development through the book, but we see their interactions with each other, and how those interactions begin to drive the story.   At first, we just have Tom, who has been keeping the lighthouse, and the girl he meets and marries, Isabel.  Isabel is younger than Tom, and she's a good balance to his quiet, steadfast character.  That's not to say that she chafes against life on the island ---- but she's a bit more outspoken and high spirited than Tom.  They seem to have a good marriage, but when the boat washes ashore, and they decide to keep the baby as their own, cracks appear in their relationship.

At the same time we're spending a lot of the story with Tom and Isabel and the baby, other characters are introduced ..... and this is where the cracks in Tom and Isabel's marriage really start to become larger.   I don't want to have any spoilers here, so I can't say too much more ---- but suffice to say, their decision to keep the baby as raise her as their own seems like a good decision at first, but then some serious repercussions happen later.

As I said, I got caught up with these characters, and their lives.  I found myself wondering if I would have made the same decision as Isabel did, or what I would have done if I were Tom.   I thought about how it would be to live on an island, where you didn't see people from the mainland very often, and how that would impact your personal privacy.   I felt the author did a nice job of really developing the main characters, so that you understand their motivations --- and their emotions.   Needless to say, this is a somewhat emotional story, where the secrets kept for the best-meant intentions can cause a lot of fissures between people (and not just the two people in a marriage).   I did also like the setting, with the island and the lighthouse (and I learned a lot about what goes into the upkeep of a lighthouse, which was interesting).

First lines:  On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.  A single fat cloud sailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below.  Isabel sprinkled more water and patted down the soil around the rosemary bush she had just planted.

I received this book courtesy of LibraryThing Early Reviewers --- thank you!!


Jennifer M. said...

I'll definitely have to add this book to my list to read. I enjoy books that make you think in the end and make you ask yourself that if the character was me, what would I have done? Great Review!


Heather said...

This sounds interesting.

I'd be interested to see how detached they've become from the "real world", as they spend all that time alone on the island... and what their choices will be upon meeting that person that their decision to keep the child most affected.

Gold Beach Oregon Fishing said...

This sounds like just the kind of book that would get inside my head and live there, and I like that. I can also relate to your struggles, as I have the same issue. My kids came with my marriage, and I love them to death, but I would love it too, if I could have my on little one to raise and love. It sounds like this book made a huge impact on you, as it might me. Very beautiful and heartfelt review.

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