In her first novel, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, M.L. Steadman zeroes in on everyday individuals who must confront their emotions that consistently pull them in opposite directions, resulting in a conflicted decision making process that puts enormous pressure on their interpersonal relationships. Staged in post World War I Western Australia Tom Shelbourne, a survivor of the not too distant battlefields of Europe is appointed the light house master on Janu Island. Before he leaves to assume his new position he meets Isadore Graysmark, a girl ten years his junior, and begins a long range relationship that culminates in their marriage two years later. Their bond is very strong and they must overcome three miscarriages which greatly tests their love for each other.
The drama unfolds one day as a boat comes a shore on the island containing a body of a man, and a two year old baby who is very much alive. Here moral issues come to the fore as to whether to keep the baby or report what has occurred. Because of Isadore’s state of mind, Tom against his own better judgment agrees to keep the baby and bury the body on the island. Tom and Isadore begin to raise the baby they name Lucy, touching off an intricate and powerful novel that contains many fascinating characters that will touch the emotions of all readers.
The narrative is a timeless story of human tragedy and compassion, as in life we are forced to make many serious choices that profoundly impact others. Stedman does a marvelous job detailing the lives of her characters and how they confront life’s obstacles and the decisions they reach. Tom, who is obviously suffering from Post-traumatic stress syndrome relating to his experiences in the Great War, must come to terms with his own ghosts and the emotional needs of his wife. His ethical journey is central to the story and his voyage is one that is torturous and leads the reader to question many of the values and gifts that life provides all of us. Stedman’s novel engrosses the reader immediately as you feel for each character and the dilemmas they must cope with. I recommend THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, and I would guess, as I experienced, the reader will reach a point in the book where you will not be able to put it down.