My older son, Greg, loves lighthouses and has visited more than 300 of them. It all started when he was nine, and we were in Georgia at the St. Simon’s Lighthouse. His most recent “light trip” was to Cape Lookout National Park in North Carolina, where he camped on the beach in April. As a result, we have spent a lot of time with him climbing --- and looking at --- lighthouses.
Thus, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M. L. Stedman drew me in with its cover as it brought back some nice memories. But as I started reading, my own thoughts faded into the background as I was plunged right into the story from the six-page prologue. The moral issue that will be at the heart of the book is there from the start as we meet Tom and Isabel, a young couple manning a remote lighthouse off the coast of Australia on Janus Rock, which is situated on the Indian Ocean. A boat washes up on shore with a crying baby and dead man, and from there, decisions are made that set up entirely what comes next.
In Part One, we are told the back story of Tom and Izzy, the nickname that Isabel is known by. Their meeting and courtship is lovely reading, rich with period details and lots of emotion. Part Two brings us back to the island as Isabel bears a stillborn child (after two miscarriages), which devastates her. Thus we know why Isabel is anxious to take the child who washed up in the boat as their daughter, while Tom bears many doubts that these actions are wise. Life is blissful in this remote world until they travel back to the mainland when the baby is two --- and they learn something that will change their worlds.
I loved the way the story unfolded. From the start, you know that the couple’s actions are wrong. From there, it’s a question of just who will say what, or what secrets of the baby’s parentage will be revealed. Stedman’s writing and plotting are so well done that it’s hard to believe this is a debut work.
For book groups, there is a lot to discuss and a number of angles to explore with this book. There’s right and wrong and moral issues, as well as the emotions of being in a remote location both living and surviving.
Now I am going to recommend a pairing here. Remember earlier this summer I selected THE WOMAN AT THE LIGHT by Joanna Brady as a Bets On selection? Why not read both and explore lighthousing on different continents in different centuries for a compare and contrast? Each story is rich on its own, and read back-to-back, it will be a lovely way to end the summer.