The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman; published 2012 by Scribner
The Light Between Oceans is a moving story of love at odds with ethics. Tom Sherbourne is the lighthouse keeper at Janus Rock in Australia. At seven months along and after two miscarriages, his wife Isabel delivers their stillborn son. Both are distraught with the loss, so it seems like providential comfort when a boat washes up on shore with a hungry infant and a dead man. Against Tom’s good judgment and legal obligation to report the incident, Tom and Isabel decide to keep the baby and raise her as their own.
Of course, as Lucy is growing up on Janus with the only mother and father she knows of, her real mother, Hannah, is still holding onto the hope of finding her husband and baby who were lost at sea. The town believes that her grief has made her mad. It’s not until a visitor to Janus recognizes Lucy’s rattle as belonging to Hannah’s lost baby Grace that Tom and Isabel’s crime comes to light.
The fallout from the discovery is what really makes this story heart wrenching. Lucy hates her true mother Hannah and refuses to acknowledge her as her mother. Hannah struggles with the demise of all of her dreams of finding her baby. Tom seeks to protect Isabel from the law by claiming that he forced Isabel to keep the baby and not say anything. Isabel blames Tom for the fact that they were caught and Lucy was taken away.
Although the story is about the fight between two loving mothers for one daughter, I was much more touched by Tom’s patient and self-sacrificing love for Isabel. Although Isabel is clearly in the wrong for trying to keep Lucy, Tom does all he can to keep her out of jail and comfort her over the loss of her only child. He continuously reminds her that they still have each other. The love that drew them together many years ago still exists, if only she can find it again. Their relationship with Hannah, understandably, never heals, but the story does reach a happy ending. And Lucy (Lucy-Grace as she is later called) does eventually come to terms with her new life and “new” mother.
This book wasn’t amazing, but I always feel good when book makes me have a good cry. The Light Between Oceans has a Nicholas Sparks-like ending that certainly left me in tears. In a good way.