The Light Between Oceans
by M.L. Stedman
Set in Western Australia in the early 1900's, The Light Between Oceans actually deals with issues that still are with us today. The issue of child custody in which there are never really any winners.
Living on a remote rock of an island are the light house keeper, Tom, and his young wife, Isabel. They love their life together in this quiet remote place. Unfortunately, though, their efforts at starting their family fail as each pregnancy ends with a miscarriage or stillborn birth.
One day, while tending to the graves of her lost children, Isabel can't believe she's hearing the cries of a baby. On the beach she discovers a boat has drifted ashore in which she finds the baby she heard crying along with a man who has died. The baby seems to be the answer to her prayers. There is no identification on the man or baby and no indication of what caused the man's death. Having recently suffered another miscarriage, no one from the mainland would ever suspect that this is not the child she had been carrying. She pleads with her husband not to report the incident of the boat drifting ashore with it's unusual cargo and allow her to keep and raise the child as their own. Tom is torn between the right and honest thing to do and his love for his wife and desire to end her pain. Ultimately he keeps quiet and destroys any evidence of the boat's arrival.
In time they come to find out who the baby is and how she came to be in the boat with her father. But years have passed and the child is healthy and happy and a delight to both Tom and Isabel. They know the child's mother continues to mourn the loss of both her husband and child. Without answers as to what ever became of them, time has not been able to ease her suffering. Tom wants to assure her that her child is alive and well, but could lose his job and marriage by doing so. Eventually the truth comes out.
What kept me interested and drawn to this story is the question of the right thing to do at this point. When a child only knows two people as his or her parents, do you rip the child away from loving people and place him/her with a stranger, even though the stranger is the real parent? I don't believe there is a right answer to that question. Did Tom and Isabel hurt the child by keeping her and loving her? Did they act ethically?
I can't give away the story, but no matter which way it goes, there is not a winner. Similar stories appear in the news today regarding children of surrogacy or adoption where a natural or birth parent changes their mind. It's a very difficult issue and this story dealt with it well.
I give this book 4 of 5 shots. It dealt with a difficult subject and caused me to reflect on it well beyond the last page. However, I did have some trouble at the beginning of the book getting into the story.