Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"The Light Between Oceans" by M.L. Stedman: a story of a life-altering choice

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman is a heartbreaking story in which no one comes out the winner. It is a story of choices and consequences. The book is told in three parts. The story opens on April 27, 1926, when Tom Sherbourne, the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, makes a horrifying discovering. A boat has washed ashore with a dead body and a crying infant.
Tom Sherbourne is a World War I vet, a decorated hero who would rather forget the events that occurred in Europe. He makes his way to Point Partageuse where he has signed on as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. There in town, he meets Isabel “Izzy” Graysmark. They marry and begin a life on the rock. Life quickly becomes harsh when Izzy suffers two miscarriages and delivers a stillborn son. The next day, Tom makes his discovery. Izzy desperate for a child, begs Tom not to record the event in the lighthouse log book and they would raise the child as their own. Seeing how happy she is and against his better judgment he agrees. They present the child as their own. Together they live as a family for two years when they return to town on their annual leave. There they learn the identity of the man who died and the events that led him into the boat. They also discover that the baby’s mother is still alive. Hannah Roennfeldt is a desperate woman who spends her days wandering around the shore, searching for her husband and daughter who disappeared on ANZAC Day. Tom wants to confess what has been done but Izzy believes it’s too late. After four years, their secret is out. The questions start. Who is right? Who takes the blame? Who is this child’s mother?
This book was recommended to me by my Aunt Sharon. I was curious about this story. A story that reminded me of the King Solomon story from the Bible where two women fight over a surviving child. As a woman who had lost two babies, I understand Izzy’s desperation and thinking that the baby’s arrival at the lighthouse was a gift from God. On the other hand, as a mother of a daughter, I understand Hannah’s desperation, the fight to keep her only child and the desire to punish the people who took her from her. In this story, there are no clear winners, no clear happy ending. No matter the choice, one woman will be hurt and the course of a child’s life is altered forever.
I highly recommend this book. It is a great story in an amazing backdrop, the western coast of Australia. My only complaint is that the author never explain what ANZAC day was. It is mentioned several times in the story that I had to look it up. ANZAC Day is a day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates its citizens who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations observed on April 25. It was originally organized as a day to honor the members of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in World War I.