Winner of the BookBrowse 2012 Best Fiction Book Award
A captivating, beautiful, and stunningly accomplished debut novel that opens in 1918 Australia - the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make one devastating choice that forever changes two worlds.
Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day's journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby's cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore 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 man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom's judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman's mesmerizing, beautifully written debut novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel's decision to keep this "gift from God." And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another's tragic loss.
With 27 out of 30 reviewers rating it 4 or 5 stars, Margot L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans is a top pick among BookBrowse readers! Here's what they have to say:
This story drew me in from the first page. Compelling and provocative, it raises many questions about right and wrong, and the human heart's capacity for love and forgiveness. Gorgeously written - the people and settings spring to life from the pages - it's really an amazing first novel from this author. I hope to see more from her in the future (Lisa M). A perfect novel - not to be missed (Nikki M). Quiet controlled prose creates a sense of time and place inhabited by real people. There are no heroes or villains. Just regular folk who have to live with the consequences of their decisions in a world that is, after all, never fair (Shirin M). (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Starred Review. Most impressive is the subtle yet profound maturation of Isabel and Tom as characters.
Starred Review. A polished, cleverly constructed and very precisely calculated first novel.
Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief
An extraordinary and heartrending book about good people, tragic decisions, and the beauty found in each of them.
Monica Ali, author of Brick Lane and Untold Story
This is a novel in which justice for one character means another's tragic loss, and we care desperately for both. Reading The Light Between Oceans is a total-immersion experience, extraordinarily moving.
Maile Meloy, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
A beautiful novel about isolation and courage in the face of enormous loss... I couldn't look away from the page, and then I couldn't see it through tears. It's a stunning debut.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Judy G Heartful Love and Sorrow My audio book experience of this story was tremendous. Oh, how my heart ached for the characters--all. Tom's amazing dedication to all 3 of the women in the story, Isabelle, Lucy and Hannah, was masterfully told. I was able to hold each character... Read More
Rated of 5
by Mary Excellent read This book was beautifuly written. It shows how choices follow you long after they are made and the consequences that come from them. I loved the setting on the island. You will not be disappointed.
Rated of 5
by Becky H The Light Between the Oceans A beautifully written tale that uses description to draw the feel of island and mainland, love and depression, fear and deceit. The dread, confusion and fear of a mother torn from her child and a child torn from her mother will stay with you long... Read More
Rated of 5
by 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... Read More
Rated of 5
by 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... Read More
Rated of 5
by 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... Read More
In Margot L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans, Tom Sherbourne takes a job as a lighthouse keeper in Janus Rock, Australia, a place where "the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best..." But what exactly do lighthouse keepers do? What purpose do they serve?
Generally speaking, a lighthouse keeper is someone who maintains a lighthouse facility. This job was of course more relevant years ago during the 19th century when oil-fueled lanterns and clockwork-like gears were fundamental components of lighthouses, before computers and electric lights could be used for the job. (In 1912, Nils Gustaf Dalén won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of "automatic valves designed to be used in combination with gas accumulators in lighthouses,"...
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