The Light Between Oceans, a novel by M.L. Stedman, is the story of love, loss, despair, hope, and redemption. While I wouldn’t call it the saddest book I’ve ever read, it would rank among the most poignant. And it definitely is a story I won’t soon forget.
Tom Sherbourne returns to his home in Australia after surviving the horrors of World War I, filled with guilt. Why did he survive? He takes a job on a tiny and isolated island off the southern coast of Australia where he takes care of the lighthouse. Doing something good for others helps him forget his past. It is a quiet and lonely existence. On one of his trips back to the mainland, he meets – and eventually marries – Isabel, a young woman looking for a change in her life and eager to have a family. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned. Isabel suffers miscarriage after miscarriage, and finally has a stillbirth after which she is unable to have children. Her sadness is almost beyond bearing.
So it seems like a miracle when a boat drifts up to the isolated island carrying a dead man and a living baby, cold and hungry. They bury the man and nurse the baby back to health. Isabel thinks it’s a miracle and believes they are meant to be parents to that child. She is convinced, and subsequently convinces a reluctant Tom, that the mother is dead and that the child would be placed in an orphanage if the truth was known by the authorities. They stay mum, and raise the child as their own.
When the child – whom they name Lucy – is 2 years old, they return for a visit to the mainland, and what they learn there changes their lives forever. Not only their lives, but the lives of several others. They face a moral dilemma.
The Light Between Oceans was a difficult book to read, because there was no right or wrong answer. It was a classic Solomon’s baby scenario. No bad guys; all good guys. No win.
The author’s writing was beautiful. Her descriptions made me understand exactly what it felt like to be so lonely and isolated, and to have a great need to love and be loved.
As far as I am concerned, the book ended about the only way it could. It was a tear-jerker, and that’s no lie. I can recommend this book with that caveat.
It has been made into a movie starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz, and it was largely filmed in Australia. I can’t decide whether or not to watch the movie….