Judy T., Tifton-Tift Co. Public Library, Georgia
The Light Between Oceans
A very touching book told primarily from the POV of Tom Sherbourne, lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. The characters are compelling and this reader found herself wishing for a way to resolve the issue in the book in a way that would be satisfying to everyone involved. "The Light Between Oceans" is beautifully written and will leave you thinking about the choices and decisions for a long time after the book has been put down.
Karen S. (Princeton, MN)
A Very Moving Debut Novel
The story of Tom and Isabel Sherbourne and their 'life on the lights' transports the reader into a duplicitous world where impossible choices are made based on great love and great loss. For Tom, a beleaguered war hero, Janus Island affords a solitary existence where he can be alone to wrestle with the ghosts of war. He meets Isabel on a leave from the lighthouse and they begin a tumultuous journey together on the Island. The stark loneliness of the island may have been a proper environment for Tom for deal with his demons, but it is no place for Isabel to recover from two miscarriages and a still born birth. One day, a boat enters their world with the possibility of a new start for Isabel, but for Tom, it is the beginning of the end.
The author does a good job in developing the characters so that this reader is emotionally divided as to what would normally be a clear moral choice. As I became involved with the characters I was surprised that I wasn't always able to determine where blame should be placed. I empathized with them in their struggle and hoped for their redemption, and for Tom and Isabel redemption comes in surprising acts of forgiveness and an unlikely legacy.
This debut novel was very enjoyable and would be a great choice for a book club, as it has potential for some deep and meaningful discussion.
Mary P. (Bellingham, WA)
The light between oceans
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It's literary fiction, taking place in Australia after WWI, with fully developed characters and poetic descriptions of physical and emotional aspects. It probes a moral question of whom a child belongs to--biological parents, or the parents who have mothered and fathered her since she was an infant. The use of location as metaphor is important--being isolated on an island to take care of a light house, and joining society by having a home leave every few years. Almost a read-at-one-sitting book.
Amy M. (Brooklyn, NY)
The Vagaries of Love
The Light Between Oceans is a captivating and heartfelt story about the extent to which we’re willing to go for those we love. Tom’s a reliable, quiet lighthouse keeper, a lonely man until he meets sweet, flirty Isabel, a woman very different from himself. After their wedding she joins Tom on isolated Janus Rock, where, together, they happily prepare their home for a family. When life disappoints them, Tom takes an extreme risk, going against his nature, to make Isabel happy. Now, while Isabel awakens ecstatic each day, Tom is decidedly troubled and, for the first time in their marriage, there are silences and vital issues they can’t discuss.
ML Stedman brings Tom and Isabel, two flawed, desperate but likable people, alive in the pages of her book, weaving a compelling and morally complex story that will keep readers mesmerized until the very last page.
Stacey, Lititz Public Library, PA
Beach read and possible book club choice set in Australia
This was a novel heavy on domestic drama as well as detail from the world of lighthouse keeping in early twentieth century Australia. The core conflict in the story stems from protagonist and Janus Rock lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne's decision to choose his wife Isabel's happiness over what is right.
I appreciated the descriptive passages celebrating western Australia and the art of lighthouse keeping. The tension of whether the Sherbourne's secret would be discovered was enough to keep me reading to the end. As a foster parent, I found the topic of a small child's home and family being determined by various biased parties to be accurately portrayed but sometimes a bit too close to home.
The Light Between Oceans struck me as a likely female book club choice. It also qualifies as a slightly meaty beach read.
Carol P. (Mendham, NJ)
The consequences of our decisions
What a wonderful debut novel. The setting is after WWI in Australia. Tom and Isabelle marry and move to Janus Island where Tom is the lighthouse keeper. They both would love a family however Isabelle suffers multiple miscarriages. One day however a boat reaches the island with a dead man and a crying baby on board. The decision Tom and Isabelle make about baby Lucy will impact friends, family and will devastate one family on the mainland.
The author brings you into the tragic decision created by Tom and Lucy and the compounding impact to so many characters. I wash brought to tears many times as Isabelle and Tom reach their own moving choices!
I think this is a great book club selection. Many great discussion topics on right and wrong and the moral dilemma created by what seemed to be an easy decision. I would also recommend this book for young adults.
I hope to read another book by this author who develops such wonderful characters.
G. Bridget Davis (Newburgh, NY)
The Light Between Oceans
This is a great book. I never before thought about lighthouses except in terms of their usefulness in days gone by. I never thought about the men who worked in them, the loneliness for them and their families and their absolute dedication to their responsibilities. But this book is more than history, it's a story of love, selflessness and selfishness. The characters were amazing and I found myself struggling over who I sided with the most and wondering, if I were in their places, would I make my choices with my heart or my conscience. I can't wait to discuss this with my book club.