The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (pub date 7/31/12)
“Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled up that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot ‘em both, and then it’s too late.”
We’ve all bent the rules a little at some point in our lives. Face it, who hasn’t ever taken a long lunch at work, embellished their resume a little, or kept the extra change we got back from the clerk at the grocery store? Most of the time, no one notices these minor transgressions. But what happens when our little lies get bigger and start hurting other people?
The main characters in The Light Between Oceans find themselves in that very situation. They are the perpetrators of a lie told with the best of intentions that ends up causing more harm than good. Tom and Isabel Sherbourne live on Janus Rock, a tiny island half a day’s journey off the western coast of Australia. Tom, a World War I veteran, is the lighthouse keeper and his devoted wife Isabel dreams of starting a family. But after multiple miscarriages, Isabel wonders if she will ever be a mother.
Then as if Heaven-sent, a boat washes up on their shore, containing a dead man and a living infant girl. A stickler for the rules, Tom wants to report it immediately. But Isabel has already fallen in love with the baby, and she tries to convince Tom that it would be kinder to keep her than to report the incident and send her to an orphanage. Though against Tom’s better judgment, the couple keeps the baby and names her Lucy.
For a few years the little family thrives on Janus Rock. But as Lucy grows, so do Tom’s guilt and Isabel’s denial about whether they did the right thing. They soon make a discovery that shows them the consequences of their lie, and the aftermath threatens to tear them apart forever.
The Light Between Oceans is a beautifully tragic story. It’s a real human drama about right and wrong and the difficulty we often face in telling the difference. Tom believes in rules and order; he thinks that having rules is what makes people civilized. But after seeing his wife in agony over not being able to have a child, he decides to break the rules out of love for her and the baby. Isabel, on the other hand, completely denies any wrongdoing. In her mind, she was destined to be Lucy’s mother and committed no sin in raising the child as her own. Their actions leave the reader wondering “what would I do in this situation?”
This book reminded me of House of Sand and Fog, another story which blurs the line between right and wrong. If you’re looking for a moving, dramatic story, I would highly recommend this novel