The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by M. L. Stedman
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In 1918, after four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day's journey from the Western coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes only four times a year and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold and loving wife, Isabel. Three years later, after two miscarriages and one still birth, the grieving Isabel is tending the grave of her newly lost infant when she hears a baby's cries on the wind. A boat has washed up on shore 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 dead man and the infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom's judgment, they claim the child as their own and name her Lucy, but a rift begins to grow between them. When Lucy is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. One of them is desperate to find her lost baby. M. L. Stedman's mesmerizing, beautifully-written novel seduces the listener into accommodating Isabel's decision to keep this "gift from God." But only until the moment we meet the grief-stricken Hannah Potts, mother of an infant named Grace, lost at sea with her father. And then we are swept into a story where there is no right answer, no path that does not lead to unfathomable loss for someone about whom we have come to care intensely. M. L. Stedman's portrayal of time and place is exquisite. Her extraordinarily compelling characters, still trying to make sense of life in the wake of so much death in the war, are imperfect people seeking to find their north star in a world of incomprehensible complexity. The end of this novel is both heartbreaking and transcendent.