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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans (original 2012; edition 2012)

by M.L. Stedman

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3,6453311,450 (3.96)1 / 309
Title:The Light Between Oceans
Authors:M.L. Stedman
Info:Scribner (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 339 (next | show all)
I was into the pages of this book almost immediately. The language grabbed me and the descriptions were excellent. I enjoyed the setting of the island as much as I enjoyed the characters. The novel takes place after WW1 off the coast of Australia. Tom is the lightkeeper in this lonely location until he marries. Disappointment and grief lead to a miracle, at least in his wife's eyes, and the action goes from there. I would read, all the while thinking about how this situation could possibly be worked out. This book made me think and made me put myself into the character's shoes, where I also found no good answers. Excellent read. ( )
  hobbitprincess | Sep 23, 2016 |
Tom and Isabel live in solitude on a small rocky island with their lighthouse. Unable to carry a baby Isabel believes heaven delivered her one when one washes up on shore. Tom grudgingly goes along with the scheme to only uncover the scandal 4 years later after finding out his illegally adopted daughter has a mother searching for her on the mainland. This is the point where I feel the author moved from a good story to one more ridiculous.

Tom obviously loved the little girl. The real mother was at this point finally coming to grips with the loss of her baby (believing it drowned). It doesn't occur to Tom that removing his 'daughter' from her adopted mother would have no impact on the child? The author describes his pain as he hears his daughter scream for Daddy and Mommy, how he couldn't bear to watch the police take her away. He didn't think that through? As a father of a four year old child I know how unrealistic this is. No matter what your sins are you'd never put your child's happiness & sanity second to resolving your conscience of your past mistakes. You just wouldn't do it. And as soon as he does it he regrets it. There was no clock or pressure to make that decision but one he had time to think over, but never thought what it would do to the child? Not buying it. ( )
  rayski | Sep 23, 2016 |
I started out very intrigued with this couple and decisions they faced. But then it seemed as if the author became almost bored of her own book as she approached the end. She wrapped up everything, basically summarizing the death of a main character whom I cared about. And raced through the end of all of the characters lives in the space of what some single days had occupied earlier. Bummer. ( )
  vickiayala | Sep 22, 2016 |
Tom is a lighthouse keeper and lives on a remote island off the coast of Australia. Tom and Isabel want nothing more than a baby to make their married life complete. After several miscarriages, it doesn't seem they will ever get their wish. Then a baby shows up on shore... Part romance, part love story, part thriller: a comfortable read in the style of Anne Tyler ( )
  mjspear | Sep 22, 2016 |
I didn't know whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars given Goodreads' hyperbolic star rating system. I'd say it was a 4 1/2, but opted to err on the side of an extra star because this book moved me deeply, made me think, and made me explore some things.

I have been putting reading this one off for some months. The description of the novel, while intriguing, told me enough that I knew I would be triggered by the story held within. I eventually chose to finish it because the movie is coming out shortly--the end of this week in which I've finished it, in fact. And I was right; this novel brought up things for me and I actually can't think too hard on it because I don't want to bring up things I try to keep at bay. When I see the movie, it will be alone so I can process it privately.

Tom Sherbourne, a new lighthouse keeper, is offered the position on an offshore light in the Australian coast, Janus island. He meets Isabelle Graysmark, a young woman who has grown up in the small town nearest the night, as soon as he steps off the train in this new town. They forge a connection early on in the book, and grow close during the brief period Tom remains in the town before being taken to Janus. At first I was not sure if Isabel truly loved Tom or if she was simply infatuated; taken by the idea that this was a man who had seen things she had never seen before having grown up in the sleepy town of Partaguese. Perhaps even gave her some small bit of connection to the beloved brothers who both died in the war which Tom survived. Isabel is described as a fair beauty, one any man in the town would be lucky to call his bride. However, Isabel has eyes on Tom. After a long distance courtship, during which they waited on tenterhooks for the next boat to bring news of the other, they decide to marry and move to Janus. As Isabel and Tom begin their life together it starts as any happily married couple; Tom especially is astounded by his good fortune and good luck in finding a woman as beautiful and kind as Isabelle to love him. His past, of which he speaks little, is filled with a long-lost mother, overbearing father, and an elder brother who is indifferent. After the atrocities that Tom witnessed (and feels he committed) in World War I, he believes God has blessed him by bringing Isabel to his life, at one point describing her as his "other half of sky".

Yet things cannot remain as those first precious moments on their isolated paradise. Isabel quickly becomes pregnant, but her pregnancy does not last. Over their first three years, spent alone but for quarterly single-day visits from the supply boat, she suffers two miscarriages and the late term stillbirth of her son. Two weeks after that final tragedy, a dingy washes upon the shore bearing an infant child and a dead man. Isabel is a enamored immediately, while Tom is uneasy. As you may have guessed, Isabel talks Tom into keeping the child.

Over the course of their daughter Lucy's first three years she grows to love the light and their solitary life, and her parents as her parents grow to love her. During their second visit to Partaguese since their marriage, and first since Lucy appeared in their lives, Isabel and Tom discovered that Lucy's mother lives and has been grieving for her since the day she disappeared. Tom immediately wants to give the child back but Isabel deftly avoids the situation, and Lucy remains with them. Eventually, of course, their secret is revealed. The family is returned to shore, where the confused child is reunited with her birth mother; the mother she has grown up with becomes despondent, bitter, and vengeful; and the father prepares to sacrifice himself to protect the love of his life at any cost.

I found it very difficult to read this book. I found myself putting it off and waiting until before bed, or during a bit of my lunch at work. I related very much to Isabel given my personal history. I have felt that same despair, and I can understand: the despair, the pain, the anger, the impulse that lead to Isabel's decisions through much of the book. I also didn't want to have any sympathy for Hannah. I felt a bit betrayed, on Isabel's behalf, when the child finally began to fit in with and accept her birth family.

I wish the book had ended differently: That Lucy had remained with the Sherbournes. That Isabel made up some lie that made it impossible to discern what could be true, leading to authorities leaving the family intact. Alternatively, I wish the Sherbournes--and Graysmarks, if Isabel desired her parents near her--had moved to London, or America, or anywhere they could start over and begin a new family.

I confess I am curious why the author chose to end the book as she did. I didn't cry throughout the entire book except the final 10 pages or so; Isabel's death, and her fear that she might be cast out of heaven for her weakness and misdeeds, makes my throat tighten as I think about it even now. The bittersweet homecoming of Lucy-Grace, so shortly after Isabel's passing when Isabel wanted nothing more to see her daughter one final time, was particularly heart-wrenching. To be clear, I don't think the ending was bad, though it was one of the saddest possible. I'm just curious why the author made that choice--for Isabel to pass just before Lucy returned to her--and there must be something in not seeing in as to why it was the right one (surely it couldn't just be to bring me to the height of tears?)

(A small edit here: As I was typing the following paragraph and thinking of Tom's past, before Isabel, it dawned on me why the author may have chosen the ending she did; I'll leave that for you to discover once you read it yourself.)

By the end of this book I felt like I had been through the wringer a bit. Feeling so close to Isabel, through so much of her actions; I began to turn on her the smallest bit when I wasn't sure she would save her husband. I know I didn't give Hannah a fair shake, but I don't want to. Tom's loneliness, from the time he was a motherless child... to the time he was a young man, searching for that woman he'd lost but always held close to him... his fragile, uncertain happiness with Lucy in his life... his love for Isabel that made just being with her enough... and the years he must face without her. It was an emotional roller coaster for me, and brings back pain and heartache I actively attempt to keep at bay every day; in fact, writing this review has been difficult. But I know I'm not the only one who understands and identifies with Isabel, and that makes me feel less alone. And look hopefully toward the days the light will reappear fully to my own life. ( )
  AeshaMali | Sep 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 339 (next | show all)
Light" is a story you want to finish, despite some predictability problems. I cared about Tom and Isabel, and cheered for them even as they betrayed each other. And I was charmed by the supporting cast of characters (Bluey and Ralph in particular).

Stedman's grasp of the dialect of the region's inhabitants and dialogue fitting for the era are admirable. Her writing is sound, if sometimes uninspiring, but every so often she throws out a gorgeous line that you have to stop and read twice to appreciate, like this one: "A goblin thought jumps onto her shoulder: what's the point of tomorrow?" Or, "The rain is falling more heavily, and in the distance, thunder grumbles at being left behind by the lightning." Nice.

First-time novelist Stedman did what all good writers should do: She got her readers emotionally invested in her story.

As if you needed it, here's more proof that this novel is worth your time: The film rights have already been picked up.

The miraculous arrival of a child in the life of a barren couple delivers profound love but also the seeds of destruction.......A polished, cleverly constructed and very precisely calculated first novel
As time passes, the harder the decision becomes to undo and the more towering is its impact. This is the story of its terrible consequences.

But it is also a description of the extraordinary, sustaining power of a marriage to bind two people together in love, through the most emotionally harrowing circumstances.

Light Between Oceans' is tough to shake off....And to the author's credit, Light's resolution is neither sensationalistic nor overly tidy. Everyone in this book has to make tough choices, including the little girl. By letting neither her readers nor her characters off the hook easily, Stedman creates a bond that makes her book tough to shake off.

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On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.
There are still more days to travel in this life. And he knows that the man who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way.
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Book description
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.

1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife, Isabel, live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world.
The one April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant - and the path of the couple's lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.
Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day - as the baby's real story unfolds...
M.L.STEDMAN'S debut is the mesmerising novel of loyalty, love and unbearable choices.
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"A novel set on a remote Australian island, where a childless couple live quietly running a lighthouse, until a boat carrying a baby washes ashore"--

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