Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

"The oceans never stop. They know no beginning or end. The wind never finishes. Sometimes it disappears, but only to gather momentum from somewhere else, returning to fling itself at the island, to make a point which is lost on Tom. Existence here is on a scale of giants. Time is in the million of years; rocks which from a distance look like dice cast against the shore are boulders hundreds of feet wide, licked round by millennia, tumbled onto their sides so that layers become vertical stripes."

This is a moving, heart-wrenching and well written story that proposes several moral dilemmas. Stedman writes of flawed characters, love between a husband and wife, and most of all - the powerful bond between mother and child. Isabel is married to Tom, a lighthouse keeper who has brought her to a beautiful but remote island off the coast of Australia. Tom is a silent, caring man who is haunted by ghosts of the war and cannot fathom why he survived when so many were killed. He is kind toward his wife, and Isabel is a loving wife that truly seems to enjoy even the isolated light-keeping lifestyle. Their love seems sweet, strong and supportive. After two years of marriage, Isabel is devestated that she cannot bear a child. She experiences two tragic miscarriages and a premature stillborn, and while Tom is loving, she is inconsolable. Until, a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and living baby. The baby seems to be newborn, and its cries awaken something in Isabel. Tom wants to report their findings and return the baby, but Isabel convinces him that it is God's wish for them to become parents to the seemingly orphaned child. They name her Lucy and love her as their own. Isabel is described as the most doting, devoted mother, and Tom, while riddled with guilt, sees that she is meant for motherhood and feels he owes it to her to stay silent. Lucy is the light of their life and has given Isabel a new purpose to her life. Honestly, passages about Isabel's love for the child brought me to tears. Tom too, is in love with the little girl, and they raise her as their own child until a trip to the mainland reminds them that they have made a decision with consequences to many others.

I don't want to spoil the end of this book, especially because it is so so beautifully written and touching -- I would not be able to do justice to the moral complexity of it, and especially, to the beautiful relationship described between Isabel and Lucy. As a mother to a daughter, I was weeping at the end of this beautiful story. I could not put this book down, and stayed awake late into the night to finish it. I found myself heartbroken and torn.

"There are still more days to travel in this life," Tom thinks. And everyone 
"who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way. 
Scars are just another kind of memory."

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