I was torn whether to give The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman 4 stars or 5, simply because 5 for me is “favorite.” However, this is such a moving, powerful story I feel 4 stars don’t do it justice. If you want a great read about real love and truth and flawed people, this is it.
I chose this book as the first one to read for my newly-formed book club. I’m so glad I did. We haven’t begun discussing yet. But when we do, perhaps I’ll come back to this review and update with some of the discussion questions.
The basic storyline (spoiler-free) is about a WWI survivor, Tom, who marries a young wife and takes her to live on a small island 100 miles off the coast of Australia. They are the only people on the island, there to man the lighthouse and keep ships off the rocks.
Early in their marriage, Isabel suffers several miscarriages and although Tom tries to comfort her in his own way, she is torn with grief. One day, a boat washes up with a dead man and a young baby. The baby is an answer to Isabel’s prayers, but she and Tom must deal with the consequences of pretending the child is their own.
I am a little bit prideful about the fact that I can usually guess how a book is going to turn out. But with this one, I just couldn’t figure out how the main conflict was going to be resolved, and I went through all sorts of theories before the end.
The characters really do have a life of their own. M.L. Stedman does an amazing job of making the characters act and behave as real humans. Tom was my favorite character, and his anguish about his choices really carries the plot forward. His and Isabel’s relationship is sweet and heart-rending at the same time. You can’t help but love these characters.
Watch out for:
I cringed several times in the first part of the novel, mainly because of the miscarriages Isabel endures. They are a bit graphic, but not out of place. And the consequences of her grief set the rest of the events in motion.
By the time I got to Part 3, I couldn’t put it down. And I might have teared up at the end (THAT rarely happens).
The entire story is beautifully written and flawlessly edited. Great read, and definitely recommended!