A Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

I originally read this book at the beginning of the year and enjoyed it so much, I thought I would share a review with you fellow bookworms!

My Verdict: The Light Between Oceans is Worth Reading

Here is The Light Between Oceans overview:

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes 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, 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, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and 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.

This book was one I really had no idea how it was going to turn out. I’m giving this book 4 stars because the plot was so intriguing to me. Tom and Isabel are an opposites-attract couple. Tom is very particular and tends to keep to himself, while Isabel is a romantic, social butterfly. I really liked their dynamic at first. Isabel brought Tom a little bit out of his shell.

I’m not familiar with Australian history, so there were some aspects of the story I did not quite know the context, like the war Tom had fought in. The gist was that Tom largely felt guilty for having survived the war, and he didn’t feel like he deserved to live let alone have a happy life with a woman he loved. It was after they got married when things took a turn. I won’t get into the details, but Isabel’s character largely goes off the deep end after living in isolation with Tom at the lighthouse. She misses her family on the mainland but is determined to create her own with her husband. After having several miscarriages, she believes a baby girl crying in a row boat is a sign from God. Somehow, she convinces Tom that they should keep the child.

Throughout the book, I found myself questioning the morality of this couple’s decision. Of course, we all would think we would turn a lost child in to the authorities, but if I were Isabel and had several miscarriages, I can’t say I would be in my right mind either. Tom, a rule follower through and through, struggles in his love for his wife and his conviction of the kidnapping. In his quest for absolution, he figures out a way to make things right, even if it means disappointing Isabel.

This book is classified as fiction, but it is definitely quite suspenseful. There are a few twists and turns in the plot, and the author is very good at getting into the backstories of some of the characters. I empathized with most of them, and toward the end of the book, I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how everything would be resolved.

A few of critiques I have for the book are that towards the end, the author kept changing points of view with side characters, and I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. I also felt like the ending dragged on. At some points, it was very hard for me to like Isabel’s character. Although I wouldn’t consider her the villain of the book by any means, I didn’t like how much pressure she put on Tom to keep the child for so long. The emotional toll Tom had to undergo was heavy, and that’s partly why I would definitely recommend this book even though it is a very emotional read.

Another note: a film adaptation for this book came out in 2016 starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. I have not seen the movie. If you have, what did you think of it? How did it compare to the book?

According to Barnes and Noble, books similar to this one include The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

As always, I really appreciate you taking the time to read my posts. If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Feel free to leave a comment!

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