M.L. Stedman’s debut novel, The Light Between Oceans, is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of a young couple in the wake of World War I. After several years in battle, Tom returns home to Australia and meets Isabel in a remote town. Despite concerns that his new wife may struggle with his new-found calling as the light keeper for a lighthouse half a day’s boat ride from the mainland, Isabel is thrilled to begin her marriage on their own private island of Janus Rock. Tom loves the serenity and calm his new life affords him, and Isabel seems to take to their unusual life just as eagerly. The only thing she wants to complete their life is a child. After two miscarriages and one stillbirth, Isabel has no doubt that when a baby washes up inside a small boat on the shore of their tiny island the child is meant to be theirs. Tom, torn between what he feels is the right thing to do and what he feels he must do for Isabel’s happiness, makes the only decision he can make.
What I think makes this book so good is that, because of the wonderful development and depth each character is given, the consequences brought on by the choices made ring so true. This book will leave readers asking “what would I have done in this situation?” Not many novels are able to elicit empathy and understanding for all involved, yet The Light Between Oceans does this completely and with gorgeous prose to boot. You’ll be discussing this one with your friends and in your book club for a long time to come.