Review: The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans
By M.L. Stedman
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781451681734, July 2012, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

An impossible situation set in a beautiful and captivating setting. A story of love and loss. It left me breathless.

The Rest of It:

After four, very long years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia a different man. After what he’s seen, what he needs is a total break from reality and he finds it in a position as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. For a while it’s just him and the lighthouse and he likes it that way. But after being ashore only a few times and his only contact being the supply boat that comes every six months, he begins to wonder what it would be like to share his life with someone else.

Isabel is a bold, adventurous young woman and after a few chance encounters with Tom, it’s clear to both of them that there is more than just a friendship there. But what concerns Tom is life on the island itself. Will Isabel be able to adapt to the harsh weather? Will she be able to deal with the isolation? But she assures Tom that they will be happy, and they are but after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, Isabel’s view of the island shifts. What was once such a happy place, is now a stark reminder of their loneliness.

When a boat washes ashore with a baby inside of it, it’s clear that the events of that day will forever leave their mark.

This was an amazing read for so many reasons that I have to list them out:

  • The setting. Stark, yet beautiful. Stedman did an amazing job at putting me right on the island. 
  • Tom and Isabel are so likable that when their choices cause them to go the other way, somehow I was okay with it even though I knew in my heart that such a decision would do them in.
  • With each chapter, I continued to question what was right and wrong.  I don’t think I ever stopped doing that even when I turned the last page. I so wanted to discuss this with a book club because there is just so much to discuss.
  • The other characters all play significant roles in the decisions that are made and I loved that. Everyone had a purpose and there were times where it truly felt like a community even though it was a community struggling to do the right thing.
  • Not once did I ever question the possibility of such a thing happening. The isolation of the island made it possible and in that sense, played a critical role.
  • Once the story gets going I could not put it down. I needed to know about these people and what was going to happen to them.
  • Tom. God love him. Such a tortured soul. I wanted to scoop that man up and give him a hug.

Honestly, I could go on and on. The Light Between Oceans had me asking myself what I’d do in a similar situation and although putting yourself under a microscope for that kind of scrutiny is uncomfortable, it was also enlightening. How far will a person go to be happy? How does love change that? Apparently, quite a bit.

Loved this one. I wish everyone could stop what they are doing and read it right now. It’s that good.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Library Thing.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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43 Responses

  1. Agreed! Loved it! And it made a great book club pick!

  2. Beautiful review…you have away of getting to the heart of a book…especially when you love it.

  3. Wow! You make me want to call in sick at work, just so I can download this book and spend the day reading it. Hmmm. Not a bad idea ;) I’m definitely going to be reading this one – its obvious you loved it, which means it is going to be a great read and I can’t wait!

  4. I didn’t read this – you know I like to go in blind and will be reading this one very soon. Just stopped by to say, “PRETTY SPOON!” :D

  5. I’ve seen this around in lots of best-of-2012 lists, so it got me curious. And the cover is lovely!

  6. Fabulous, isn’t it.

  7. Yay! I have this one, and since you loved it so much, I am going to make an effort to read it soon. I think it’s kind of ridiculous how many books I actually own, and haven’t read yet, so I am trying to read from my own shelves this year, and this is the perfect place for me to start. Excellent review today! All your bullet points convinced me that this one is for me too!

  8. Great review! I am definitely putting it on my Nook book wish list :-)

  9. Everyone seems to find this one an emotional and powerful read.

    • And I don’t think you have to have a kid to get it either. Anyone who has lost anything or anyone close to them will be able to relate on some level.

  10. Our book club read this (and OMG how much there is to discuss!), and we all felt it got to a very slow start. But once the rubber meets the road so to speak, it was hard to stop reading. Such a blurry line between right and wrong here, but I do admit that I did not particularly like Isabel. I totally “got” where she was coming from, but I really resented the position she put Tom in, because I loved him.

    • I get what you mean. There were times where I just didn’t feel Isabel knew how much Tom had swallowed for her happiness. Or that she had any idea how tortured he was over the whole thing. But that’s what happens when you are overcome with grief. You begin to rationalize it out so although I had little patience for the decision, I could see how she got there in her head.

  11. I keep reading great things about this book! I need to buy a copy!

  12. Glad you loved this one Ti. It would be hard for me to understand why anyone might not like it. Truly well done. Loved reading your thoughts.

  13. I loved your review and am glad you loved this! You know, I never even considered this as a book club read but you are so right… it would make for great discussion. It was definitely very easy to relate to and like Tom and Isabel.

    • I thought Hannah was an interesting character too. It surprised me how much I disliked her when she first came into the picture. Surprised me that I’d feel that way about the poor woman! But that is just atestamentto how much I liked Tom.

  14. I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to get this one…you’ve convinced me!! :)

  15. I have come so close to buying this 10,000 times. I don’t know what keeps stopping me, since I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

    • I’ll tell you why it took me so long to read it. I saw a lighthouse on the cover and assumed ML STEDMAN was a MAN and figured it would be heavy on coordinates, ocean lore and all that. There was some of that, but the author is a woman.

  16. This seems like one of those books that everyone loves … so I guess I better read it!

  17. I’ve heard quite a bit about this one but didn’t realize it was so good. I should get my hands on it!

  18. It’s like you’ve slathered this book in icing, that’s how tempting you’ve made it…

  19. I have been wanting to read this one for a while – well actually I want to listen to it. Now after knowing how much you loved it I really want to read it.

    • I know nothing about the audio version but in print, it was very powerful. I had to compose myself at least twice while reading.

  20. You know I loved this one. What is right? What is wrong? Deep and meaningful. Unique. I knew you’d love this one.

    • Exactly! And the fact that what I felt was wrong, and knew was wrong, somehow felt right. The ability for the author to manipulate emotions without be obvious. I didn’t even realize what I was feeling until Hannah showed up.

  21. Okay, you sold me. I’m adding this to my TBR list! Thank you

  22. You make me want to drop everything and read this book right now! Darn reading commitments. Soon though. I want to read this one soon. Before everyone forgets and I have no one to talk to about it.

  23. It sounds thought-provoking. And a ringing endorsement from you, all which tells me it’s good! thanks

  24. I liked this one too, and there is definitely a lot to discuss about the ethical dilemma (especially after the baby has been with them for a while).

  25. I just bought this one after others had it listed on their best of lists. Now I really cannot wait to read it!

  26. This was an amazing read for me too. I never once doubted that this story could actually happen. I think I would’ve done close to the same thing but in the end would’ve had to come clean in order to keep the demons away in my dreams. Your review was lovely!

  27. Wonderful review! You reminded me that I really need to get my hands on a copy. It stinks that I’m #67 in the library queue though!

  28. Awesome review. I have this one in my TBR stack and I’m anxious to get to it.

  29. I just finished this book this morning. I get up early and read before the kids get up, and well, I couldn’t stop, and I think they were a little concerned because of the crying. Love your review!

  30. [...] more?  Check out these EXCELLENT reviews:  Lisa’s mom’s review at Lit & Life; Ti’s review at Book Chatter; and Caribou’s Mom recommends this for readers who like complex characters driven by [...]

  31. […] 1. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman 2. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver 3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain 4. The Shining (audio) by Stephen King 5. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes 6. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan 7. The Adults by Alison Espach 8. The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories – Volume 2, by Jospeh Gordon-Levitt 9. The Silent Land by Graham Joyce 10.  The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver 11. This Cake is For the Party by Sarah Selecky 12. Carrie (audio) by Stephen King, Read by Sissy Spacek 13. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan 14. In Between Days by Andrew Porter 15. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline 16. Panorama City by Antoine Wilson 17. Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt 18. More Than You Know by Nan Rossiter 19. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash 20. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami 21. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra 22. Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross 23. In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve 24. He’s Gone by Deb Caletti 25. Benediction by Kent Haruf 26. Joyland by Stephen King 27. Life Itself by Roger Ebert 28. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver 29. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut 30. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison 31. The Slippage by Ben Greenman 32. Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick 33. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight 34. The Never List by Koethi Zan 35. The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan 36. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly 37. Bait by J. Kent Messum 38. Night Film by Marisha Pessl 39. The Asylum by John Harwood 40. After Her by Joyce Maynard 41. Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield 42. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach 43. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King 44. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer 45. Cartwheel by Jennifer du Bois 46. This House is Haunted by John Boyne 47. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes 48. World War Z by Max Brooks 49. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami 50. The Abominable by Dan Simmons […]

  32. […] Chad Harbach This Cake is For the Party by Sarah Selecky Panorama City by Antoine Wilson The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki […]

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