Wednesday, June 29, 2016

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

The Light Between Oceans was chosen as the June Group read for the Read All the Books Facebook group. We usually do challenges but decided to do our second group read. I think this had been on several member’s TBR list for a while so it seemed like a good pick. I read this via audiobook on Overdrive.
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.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

What I had to say about it.
I loved the writing in this book and the audiobook reader, which is half the battle. There were a few places where the time line seemed to jump, where it seemed there was an assumption that the reader knew that time had passed. My guess is that the printed format made these jumps more clear.

Unfortunately for me, I watched the trailer for the movie before cracking the book, which totally spoiled it for me. No more than reading the Goodreads synopsis will, though. Why do book summaries give so much away!?

An interesting thing I’ve been thinking about is what a stage director told me once: the protagonist of the book is the one that changes through the course of the story. There are many characters in this book but there really isn’t much character growth. However, the character development is good, if that makes sense.

Anyway, at times it is hard to remember that Isabel is struggling with the loss of her children and the life that she hoped to have with Tom. During these times she just seems annoying and pushy.

This is a great book club pick because it tugs on the heart strings and there are potentially moral questions with no clear right or wrong answer. Bring the tissues. By the end I was a blubbering mess.

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