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May 29, 2016

The Light Between Oceans

by Anne Paddock

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….

Using the two oceans – the Indian Ocean and the Great Southern Ocean – as a metaphor for two families whose lives blend and collide, M.L. Stedman tells the story of the Sherbourne’s and the Roennfeldt’s in a book entitled The Light Between Oceans.

Published in 2012, the 340 page novel is divided into three parts (Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3 ) and 37 chapters. A New York Times bestseller, The Light Between Oceans is also being made into a film that will be released in September, 2016.

The_Light_Between_OceansThe main characters of the novel are Tom and Isabel Sherbourne who live on Janus Island, a square mile of rocky green land with a lighthouse that provides a safety beam for thirty miles in turbulent waters off the western coast of Australia. The two discerning attributes of Janus are the two Norfolk pine trees planted by the men who built the lighthouse in 1889 and the graveyard commemorating those who died in shipwrecks.

After the first World War ends in 1918, Tom Sherbourne accepts a job with the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service as a lighthouse keeper, which suits him. Haunted by the war, Tom has time to think and reflect in the solitude of a job that requires strict adherence to the rules laid down for the safety of themselves and the industry. While on leave in Partageuse on the western coast of Australian in 1920, he meets Isabel Graysmark, a local beauty with a sense of adventure and a happy disposition. By 1922, Tom and Isabel are married.

The story begins in 1926.  Tom and Isabel Sherbourne have been married for four years. He is the lighthouse keeper on Janus Island while she takes care of the house and prepares their home for children. After two miscarriages and a recent stillbirth, the couple are devastated: she for the loss of the child and he for the unbearable pain and sadness these events have brought upon Isabel.

History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent.

So, when a boat washes ashore with a dead young man aboard and an infant crying below the hatch, Isabel sees this event as a sign. If her own body cannot bring a child into the world, God has delivered a child to them. Tom sees things differently but goes along with the charade to please his wife who is still mourning the death of their stillborn son two weeks prior. They claim the infant – a baby girl – as their own despite Tom’s better judgment and name her Lucy.

Having come close so close to the hands of death, life now fused with life like water meets water.

When Lucy is two years old, the Sherbournes return to Partageuse and learn there is a world outside of Janus with real people whose lives have been upended by their actions, despite how harmless those decisions seemed at the time. Haunted by their actions and yet fearful of losing the only child they have ever known and love, Tom and Isabel are forced to make decisions that will impact themselves, their marriage, Lucy, and another family.

When it comes to their kids, parents are all just instinct and hope.

The Light Between Oceans is the story of love and forgiveness in a world of isolation and loss. Along the way, the reader stands by helpless turning pages, taking sides, thinking about what-if’s, and trying to figure out how this love story will end. Told in a simplistic style, this complicated story will tug at your heart and make the reader give thanks the child sleeping upstairs is indeed at home.

He struggles to make sense of it – all this love, so bent out of shape, refracted, like light through the lens.

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