Genre: Literary Fiction - Contemporary
Rating: 5/5 stars
What age range is recommended for reading this book? Ages 13+
Where to find this book and price?
Amazon (kindle) / Barnes and Noble
Synopsis: Tom Sherbourne has just finished his tour in World War I when he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Isabel Graysmark. They get married and move to the uninhabited island of Janus where Tom has been working as the keeper of the lighthouse. They are eager to become parents, but fate is not on their side. Isabel has two miscarriages and gives birth to a stillborn baby.
Then, one day, a dead man and a newborn baby wash ashore in a small boat. As the lighthouse keeper, Tom is obligated to report it. But, at Isabel’s insistence, he doesn’t report it so that they keep the baby and raise her themselves. And the consequences of their actions take them down a path that they could have never imagined.
Review: Wow! The Light Between Oceans is a superbly-written, poignant story about the blurry line between right and wrong, and the far-reaching effects of our personal choices. The book is beautifully told from the third person omniscient point of view. It boasts a story that is thought-provoking and original, and characters that are sympathetic and well-developed.
Being over there changes a man. Right and wrong don’t look so different any more to some.
There were so many things that I liked about this book. One of the first things that delighted me was the writing. I can come up with only one word for M.L. Stedman’s prose: beautiful. The prose is carefully-crafted, yet, pleasing in its simplicity. It is elegant and lyrical without being pretentious or contrived — a hard feat to pull off, in my opinion.
The wind had kept up its sullen howl. The late-afternoon sun continued to shine through the window, laying a blanket of bright gold over the woman and her almost-baby. The old clock on the kitchen wall still clicked its minutes with fussy punctuality. A life had come and gone and nature had not paused a second for it. The machine of time and space grinds on, and people are fed through it like grist through the mill.
Character development is another strong point of this book. The characters are all beautifully flawed, and they were endearing to me because of both their strengths and their weaknesses. The characters are well-rounded, complex, and realistic. They are compassionate but selfish, mature but childish, daring yet fearful. They are wonderful in their complexity and shameless vulnerability.
Tom, the male protagonist, carries the weight of his actions in World War I around with him like an invisible albatross. His time spent in the war weighs on his humanity and makes him a more complex character and sympathetic soul. And, Isabel, the female protagonist, is an impetuous force of nature who sees the good in Tom despite the things he’s done. They are the quintessential yin and yang. Or, as Tom puts it, Izzy is his “other half of the sky.”
Suddenly Tom realizes he is crying. He weeps for the men snatched away to his left and right, when death had no appetite for him. He weeps for the men he killed.
My favorite thing about the book is how provocative it is. The choices that these characters make throughout the story and their motivations behind those choices are so compelling that they will stay with you long after you’ve put the book down. Their actions will haunt you, and your feelings toward their actions will spur you to introspection and reflection.
The dialogue of the book is another strong point. The voice of each character is unique and further adds to the characterization. Despite the heavy themes explored in this book, some of the characters are quite jovial and witty. And others, like Tom, are more morose and solemn. This uniqueness of character voice is a refreshing mix.
Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled up that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot ‘em both, and then it’s too late.
I also enjoyed the use of symbols in the book. I noticed almost immediately the symbolic use of elements like light and darkness, wind and water. And, I began to look for more uses of symbolism, finding many occasions where it was interwoven seamlessly into the story like beautiful touches of embroidery on fine tapestry.
A Light Between Oceans envelops you. It permeates your heart, your intellect, your humanity. It puts you in the judgment seat, where you find yourself coming to terms with the fact that the line between black and white is not always as easy to find as you once believed.