Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

light between oceans

Rating: 5 / 5

Tom Sherbourne, recipient of the Military Cross and Bar for his actions during the war, has returned to civilian life.  He is now the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, an isolated location, although perfect for him, for he is dealing with the consequences of war, and of his childhood.  Tom and his wife, Isabel, are far removed from civilization at Janus; the supply boat only comes around once a season, and they can leave Janus only once every couple of years.  One night, while Tom is on duty, he hears a baby cry, and upon investigating, finds a dinghy beat up on the shore, with a crying baby and a dead man.

As Tom is meticulous and takes his responsibilities as lighthouse keeper seriously, he knows he must document this event, but Isabel convinces him otherwise.  After three miscarriages, she sees this as a sign from God, that this child, which she has named Lucy, should be theirs to raise.  Although Tom is wholeheartedly disagrees, given her precarious mental state and the fact that he wants to make her happy, he complies with her request.

Two years later, they are allowed to return to Partaguese, Isabel’s hometown, for a vacation.  There, they learn that Lucy is actually Hannah Pott’s daughter, that Lucy’s real father, Frank, was in the dinghy because drunken, rioting townsfolk were chasing them.  Hannah has never given up hope that her child would eventually be returned to her.  Although Isabel is adamant about not letting Hannah, or anyone else know that Lucy is really Hannah’s daughter, the guilt eats away at Tom.  Eventually, the real identity of Lucy is discovered, and Tom is arrested for child kidnapping.  The idyllic life that Isabel has tried so hard to create and nurture has come shattering apart, and the consequences she and Tom must face are devastating.

M.L. Stedman’s storytelling is absolutely fantastic.  The Light Between Oceans is incredibly evocative and compelling.  It is so hard to put into words how emotional and powerful this novel is.  On the surface, it is clear who is right and wrong, and yet Stedman writes in such a multi-faceted way that the reader understands everyone’s point of view, which makes the consequences so much more damaging and difficult to come to terms with.

The Light Between Oceans is full of gray areas, and the scenarios are a great look at morals and consequences, the love between spouses, children, parents, the lasting effects of righting a wrong, and how one single choice can affect so many people.

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