This review can also be found in the Canon City Daily Record.
The Light Between Oceans is a complex tale, simply told, about a desire, a lie, and the hearts that break in consequence. In her debut work, M.L. Stedman creates a historical novel, defying obviousness and offering instead an intimate look at a man and a woman, both bearing deep wounds in post-World War I Australia. The events unfold against the backdrop of a harsh location - a lighthouse between the Indian and the Great Southern Oceans.
At times deceptively unaffected, and at times poetic, Ms. Stedman has done her research. Between the beautiful imageries of a land and sea that collide, she brings readers into a time and place where xenophobia is thick and controlling, solitude is desired by soldiers returning home, and a decision can wreak havoc for so many souls. Using the unique setting and its attending laws, a story is crafted; an ex-serviceman returning from war brings his bride to a remote lighthouse where he will be keeper and she will be his companion. After numerous miscarriages, their grief is deep and inconsolable. A dead man and an infant, wrapped in a sweater, wash up on Tom and Isabel's isolated shore and a choice made in despair offers them brief, incomplete happiness.
And then, of course, tides change, and secrets and lies can no longer be kept.
"On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small newly made driftwood cross." In this lovely romantic tale, questions arise. Can a tragedy also be a miracle? What makes a mother? Is deceit ever excusable - acceptable? Is love and loyalty more important than integrity? Shall we have faith in our own dreams and desires, or in what is or must be? What is grace - or betrayal? What does love really look like? What is the right decision after so many wrong choices?
In the telling of this story, Ms. Stedman has allowed readers to come to their own conclusions, even at times challenging a notion they once held as truth. The use of a vernacular peculiar to the area and time encourages readers to connect to each character and their dilemmas. Readers will be intrigued as they come to clear and definite conclusions as to what is right - what is just.
Waiting for the lies to come to light, waiting for an ending that leaves one satisfied and comfortable is difficult, but worth every page of this stunning and unassuming work. "The light will reappear" and the reader will be better for this journey into the hearts of a man and woman who dare to love a child
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