Rummanah Aasi
  If you are looking for a provocative page-turner, read The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. With delicious moral complexity and great writing, Stedman creates a world where there is no right answer and where justice for one person is another person's tragic loss. 

Description: 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. 


Review: The Light Between Oceans is a haunting tale that can only end in heart break. It is a story of moral dilemmas centered around two couples, a desperate attempt at happiness, and a life forever changed. Tom Sherbourne is an emotionally scarred World War I war veteran who returns to Australia looking for the comfort of solitude as a lighthouse keeper on remote Janus Rock island. While others complain of being far removed from other locals, Tom finds peace and unexpectedly falls in love with the vibrant and spirited Isabel. Their romance is sweet and progresses naturally. They marry and hope to start a family, but Isabel suffers miscarriages then loses a premature baby. Stedman effectively describes their gut wrenching pain, the slow fractures in Tom and Isabel's relationship. Tom desperately wants things to go back to normal, the pain reminding him of the war he can not shake off while Isabel sees a cold man and feeling along in her own personal war. My heart ached for both of the characters and I really hoped that they would get some ray of sunshine after some really rough months. 
  The sunshine does indeed come after two weeks after their last catastrophe. Miraculously a dinghy washes ashore containing a man's body and a crying infant. Isabel wants to keep the child, which she sees as a gift from God; Tom wants to act correctly and tell the authorities. Isabel's joy and attachment to the baby is so immense and the prospect of giving her up so destructive, that Tom gives way. 
  Like many things in life, all good things must come to an end. Years later the identity of the baby and her real family history resurface. Once again Isabel and Tom are faced with another moral dilemma: to admit to their mistake or to hide? As a reader I became so absorbed in this story not because of its plot but for the way Stedman puts her characters through the moral wringer. The plot as if almost ready made for a movie is so cleverly constructed and precise in providing character development that makes even the reader struggle for a resolution. Normally in stories of similar cases you could easily identify who is being selfish and clearly in the wrong, but with knowing the context of the situation things aren't easily black and white. The suspense leading to the resolution is fantastic and makes you turn the page quickly. With lush descriptions of Austrailia and vivid characters, this is a great debut novel and a perfect choice for a book club selection.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and gory descriptions of a miscarriage and delivery of a baby.

If you like this book try: The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shrieve, Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarity
7 Responses
  1. I'm sure you know by now that I generally avoid realistic stories. However, just like you were utterly absorbed in this one, I think it's reasonable to assume I would be too. It seems to be a gorgeous and thought-provoking read. What more can one ask?


  2. I loved this one. I wouldn't say it was a page-turner -- at least not at the beginning. It took a while to get going, but I listened to the audio version and it was great. What a heartbreaking story...you just KNOW that things cannot turn out well for all involved, but you want it to!


  3. Jenny Says:

    My heart hurts for them Rummanah! I love books that make you ask yourself difficult questions and really put yourself in the characters' shoes. Right and wrong always get blurry when that happens and I'm never not riveted. I'm definitely curious about the end....you know me, I like to know these things before reading!


  4. This sounds like it might be a little out of my comfort zone, but I'm really curious about it too. The plot already has my attention and I need to know how everything turns out! I like that the author managed to get you so invested in the characterisation. Lovely review as always!


  5. This sounds like an emotional story! I hadn't really planned on reading this one, but now I definitely want to pick it up. My book club is still looking to nail down a December pick, so I'm going to suggest this. Thanks for putting it on my radar with your lovely, thoughtful review!


  6. I'm so glad to see a review of this one. I've seen it all over the place, but never taken the time to see what it's about. It sounds like it will put you through the emotional ringer. Think I'll keep it on my TBR list. Wonderful review, Rummanah!


  7. Candace Says:

    I'm not sure this is one I would be able to read, but it does sound like the perfect book club pick, one you could discuss for hours!


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