The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman, is the story of a dedicated lighthouse keeper and his wife caught in a heartbreaking deception. Tom Sherbourne is a veteran who relishes the seclusion of the Janus Rock lighthouse. He reveres the regularity of the light and thrives under the rigorous requirements of record-keeping and light maintenance. When Tom marries Isabel, they plan to raise a family on the island. Unfortunately, Isabel tends their babies’ graves as they lose their children by miscarriage or stillbirth.
When a small boat washes up to Janus Rock with a dead man and a healthy baby, Isabel is smitten. She rationalizes that a mother would never leave her baby and must not be alive, and that there would be no harm in caring for the child. Tom worries that he is required to report this arrival and feels they should return the child and try to find the dead man’s family. But Isabel can’t imagine parting with the child and convinces Tom to allow her to claim the child as their own, and bury the man on the island.
As the story unfolds, Tom and Isabel’s decision has tragic consequences. Both Tom and Isabel continue to find ways to justify the wrongness of their actions, but when baby Lucy’s birth mother discovers she is alive, what is best for the baby becomes unclear, and the deception around the burial of the dead man puts Tom in a dire situation.
The Light Between Oceans is tragic and heartbreaking. Stedman skillfully weaves a story that presents to readers a fine balance between right and wrong. The Light Between Oceans was published by Scribner in 2012.