The Light Between Oceans
Tom Sherbourne returns home to Australia after four years on the Western Front, wanting a measure of peace and quiet. He takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on isolated Janus Rock, an island one mile square and nearly half a day’s journey from the mainland. Though the supply boat only comes once every three months, adventurous Isabel marries him and follows him to the island. But the extreme isolation, along with two miscarriages and a stillbirth, take their toll on the young couple, and when they hear a baby’s cries on the beach, they make a decision that forever changes their lives.
A boat has washed ashore, with a dead man and a squalling baby. Isabel takes the baby and pleads with Tom not to report it in his lighthouse log. Rule-bound Tom struggles with the omission, but so far from civilization, they convince themselves that the baby is an orphan. Yet years later, when they visit the mainland on a rare shore leave, they discover that fate isn’t that simple. The baby not only has a family, but a mother who has never given up hope.
I won’t lie; this was a difficult story that brought me to tears on more than one occasion. But this is to the author’s credit, the characters are so real, flawed and yearning that I wasn’t sure who I should be rooting for: Lucy, the baby, raised amidst the wilds of Janus Rock; one mother, grieving since the day the small boat set off from the mainland; the other mother, grieving until the day the boat washes ashore on the island. Among it all is solid, dependable Tom, torn between his conscience and love for his wife. Between the deeply layered characters and the haunting loneliness of wave-swept Janus Rock, Stedman has created an authentic, heartbreaking story that I was unable to put down. A beautiful and highly recommended debut.