The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

 

General FictionA lighthouse watThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedmanchman has a lonely job. Tom Sherbourne is still dealing with the mental aftereffects of World War I. He likes being isolated on the island about 100 miles off the southwest coast of Australia. But while on shore in the small town nearest Janus Rock, Tom meets Isabel. After a few letters and two in person meetings, they marry and she returns to Janus Rock with him.

Isabel immediately makes herself at home. She starts naming places on the small island, which is disturbing Tom. He loves her so deals with his own moral disruptions. To Isabel’s grief, she miscarries three babies. Then a dead man and an extremely tiny baby float to shore. Isabel convinces Tom that they should keep the parentless girl. Tom ignores his conscious and gives in to his wife. Tom buries the man and Lucy becomes their child. They tell the monthly supply boat that the girl they named Lucy is their baby, pretending she carried the last baby to term.

When Lucy is two they return the town for a leave. They make sure Lucy is baptized while they are there. But they learn about the heartbreak in the town. Lucy may not have been abandoned like they thought. Now the couple faces a moral dilemma.

The Light Between Oceans cannot end well. Somebody is going to be devastated. Isabel had been getting more depressed with each miscarriage. She might not have survived if Lucy hadn’t washed ashore when she did. Tom loves his wife and recognizes he could lose her. Once they take Lucy, she becomes theirs. Janus island is the child’s home. Lucy only knows two other people in the world.

Lucy’s on shore family has been devastated since the baby disappeared. Some are sure she’s still alive. Others believe she drowned. One little girl; two families who want to love her; that is not a win-win situation.

M.L. Stedman does an exquisite job of wrenching the reader’s hopes for both families. As a mother, I could feel the heartbreak in both families. I can’t gauge how a man will react to this book because my motherly emotions were too involved. I don’t believe it gets to maudlin, but again, I can’t be sure.

There are some dropped scenes and descriptions in The Light Between Oceans. For example, Isabel considers her choices and Tom’s past. She supposedly makes some decisions then, but the reader is lead to believe she will take actions that aren’t followed through or mentioned again.

The Light Between Oceans also deals with the PTSD of the soldiers from World War I. Then it was not discussed or called shell shock. Tom appreciates the isolation of Janus Rock as he deals with his memories of the battle front. Those of us in the United States tend to forget that Australia was also involved in that war located only in Europe. At that time there was little psychiatric treatment available – returning soldiers were supposed to suck it up and return to normal life. Some, like Tom, were able to find their niche and a way to cope.

Stedman writes a poignant tale, pulling the right notes of a quandary that can’t be solved. The Light Between Oceans will stay in the reader’s mind and heart.

Notice: Non-graphic violence

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