The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman


There isn't a lot I can say about this book that hasn't already been said. Heartbreaking? Check. Well written? Check. Realistic? Check. Unforgettable? Check x 1,000,000. But I'm going to write this review anyway because I care about these characters, this message, and this story.

You all know that I don't read adult fiction often. The reason for that (even though I don't need justification for my love of YA) is hard to pinpoint, but in general, I don't enjoy or relate to the stories as much. A lot of adult fiction, this novel included, is about marriage and family, and I haven't experienced those things yet. But there are a few adult novels that I read with those themes that I really enjoy, and this is one of them.
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, 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, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and 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.

Tom was a complex yet straight forward character. He's a man with a job, with a duty, and he will do it. There is no such thing as morally gray in his mind. He is pure honor and guilt. Even when it comes to his love and his family, he has to do the right thing.

And Isabel is the opposite. She is so traumatized, so broken from her miscarriages that she is blinded, unable to see what is right anymore. Deep down, she understands that she shouldn't have done what she did but she is too focused on her past pain and her love for Lucy to think about it. She can forget about what she did--and Tom never can. That's the biggest difference between them. Because of this, I found Isabel to be annoying. I'm not a mother, so I can't say what it is like to lose your unborn child--and I think what she did was realistic--but I couldn't do that. And she was so broken herself that she couldn't see how much pain she was putting her husband through.

Their relationship was very complex because of the stolen child. Before that mess, they made sense. Isabel tamed his spirit and Tom strengthened her resolve and temperament. They were lovely together; I truly believed in their love and their relationship.

But after the child, it all went to hell. She essentially forces her husband to overlook his duty, his whole identity, so she could have a child. And after the fallout of Lucy, she blames Tom for everything, even though it was her idea to keep the child. She is so hurt by his "betrayal" that she considers lying to the police and telling them that he abuses her. That is just so morally abhorrent. And that is the main rift in their relationship, one of the main themes of the novel: morality. Tom has it in every aspect of his life and Isabel...doesn't always have it at all.

The writing was strong and unique. It felt as if it was written a hundred years ago; it was so natural to the time in which it was supposed to take place. That's a really hard thing to do, and Stedman does it beautifully. I loved the changing perspectives, learning about all of the secondary characters as well as Tom and Isabel. Third-Person Omniscient with a multitude of characters is probably my favorite point of view. This was done sporadically, so you never knew when it was coming, yet it was so well incorporated.

DON'T BE A RELATIONSHIP THAT MAKES YOU FORGET ABOUT YOUR DREAMS, GOALS, AND MORAL IDENTITY. That's my final thought. Also, this book is a really interesting, accurate view of honesty, relationships, and family and you should read it. It will hurt your heart at times, but it is worth it.

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