I was drawn to this book because of the moral dilemma at its core: Could a couple who couldn’t have children of their own really take in a child whom they found in a boat washed up on their shore without regard for the family that might be searching for her?
The Light Between Oceans is the story of Tom Sherbourne, a lighthouse keeper on a remote island off the coast of Australia, and his wife Isabelle who has suffered two miscarriages and a stillbirth. When they discover a boat washed up on the shore carrying a dead man and a baby who is very much alive and healthy, they make a decision to keep the child and claim her as their own. Their decision comes into question when they discover the child’s mother is still alive and searching for her missing husband and daughter. But Isabelle is desperate for a family, and when Tom sees how happy the baby makes her, he doesn’t report the incident, going against his duties as a lighthouse keeper. Instead, he buries the body of the man in the boat, and with it, he buries the truth.
The island is an ideal setting for the novel – a cocoon where the Sherbournes can safely keep their secret and live as a normal family.
When they finally leave the island for the first time in two years and head back to the mainland, they finally hear the story of the man and baby who went missing two years ago and the woman who is still desperately searching for her family, clinging to the hope they are still alive.
Tom and Isabelle must decide if they will reveal the secret they’ve harbored for the past two years. Keeping their secret means keeping a child from it’s mother, leaving a woman a lost soul with questions she will never have answered. Revealing the truth means they will surely lose their daughter Lucy, and with it, their only chance at having a family of their own.
This novel kept me turning the pages. What made the story so compelling was that everyone had a stake in the outcome; not only the Sherbournes, but also the daughter they wanted so badly they’d do anything to keep her, and the mother who wanted her child back. It is an impossible situation of mistakes and their consequences, one where there don’t seem to be any right answers.
The book is not without its faults. The beginning is bogged down with backstory, the middle is drawn out, and some awkward prose throughout the novel is distracting, though somewhat forgivable, for a debut novel. Ultimately, the story is an interesting and thought-provoking read.
Do not look to this book expecting a happy ending, as there are no easy answers in this emotionally-charged novel. What you will find is a haunting story that may break your heart.