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


My letter “L” pick for the A to Z reading challenge was The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. This haunting story takes us to a tiny, remote island off the coast of Australia – not much more than a chunk of rock, really. Therein resides the lighthouse keeper, a man named Tom, still working through his battle demons from WWI. He meets and falls in love with Isabel, a girl from the mainland, and together they make a life for themselves on the island.

Despite the remoteness of their living arrangement, they’re happy until a string of miscarriages and stillbirth devastate Isabel’s hopes of being a mother. Providence steps in, and a boat washes ashore with a dead man inside – and an infant girl. Tom goes against his better judgement and allows Isabel to keep the child and pass her off as their own. Happiness returns, and Isabel is a devoted mother to the baby they name Lucy, and Tom falls in love with fatherhood. A trip to the mainland for Lucy’s christening throws it all in a twist when Tom hears of a woman named Hannah, whose husband and infant daughter went missing and are presumed dead.

Tom’s guilt eats away at him, and he begins secretly sending anonymous letters to Hannah, assuring her that her daughter is safe and happy. This all unravels as Tom sends a bit too much info, tipping off a third party who keys Hannah into the truth. Isabel feels betrayed, Lucy is torn between two families, and anguished, very understandable human emotions whirl all around.

This book left me with a feeling of melancholy I just couldn’t shake, despite its peaceful (if not necessarily happy) resolution. The prose felt a bit stilted in places, but the unwinding of all these twists and turns kept me interested in knowing how they were ever going to get through this hopeless situation. A good read and very nearly a great one. Three and a half stars.

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