The Light Between Oceans

By M. L. Stedman

The Short Take:

Every decision has its repercussions that reach outward like ripples in a pond. This romantic novel explores the repercussions when a lighthouse keeper and his young wife find a crying baby and a dead man in a rowboat beached on their remote island home. Brooding and emotionally charged, this one can break your heart time and again.


They say no man is an island, but protagonist Tom Sherbourne is about as close as one can get. Emotionally scarred by his WWI years, he has sought the isolated life of a lighthouse keeper, alone on a remote island. He takes every task seriously and is scrupulous in his integrity and his work ethic. This deep morality is both his bedrock and his Achilles heel.

Stedman’s book explores how isolation impacts first a man, then a couple, and finally a family. But it is ultimately about the choices they make. Even when you know their choices are suspect, you completely understand each and every one; you also ache for the inevitable problems to come.

The writing was lovely, with entrancing — if rather desolate — descriptions of remote Janus Rock, a day’s sail south of southwestern Australia. The plot took awhile to get going, but knowing more about Tom’s earlier lighthouse years prepared you for who he was and what he did.

You’ll encounter a lot of pain in this novel, flowing from the loss of children and others. You’ll also find boundless love. It’s a powerful combination. You can’t help but feel empathy for all the main characters. And, you won’t want to put this one down until all is resolved.

A Little Plot:

Tom is the new lighthouse keeper at an island post that only sees a supply ship months apart and with years between shore leaves. Just before heading out, he meets Isabel, a much younger woman filled with energy and joy. She “sets her cap” for him and he eventually brings her to the island as his wife.

She hopes to fill their home and lives with children, yet miscarriages make that hope fade. Then a small boat beaches on their shore occupied by a crying infant and a dead man. For Isabel, it is a miracle. For Tom, it is a terrible conflict: fulfill the dreams of the woman he loves or report the boat and its occupants as duty requires.

His heart rules his head that day, yet his discomfort with the situation continues. Then, he learns something which make his choice almost unbearable. His subsequent actions are devastating for many. Yet, you understand.

You can hear Stedman talk about her novel, as well as see some nice pictures of Australia, by clicking here.

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