Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

This book was all the rage for a while, and I guess I'm jumping onto the bandwagon a little late (particularly considering the copy I bought was in the bargain section). So I'll try to say something at least somewhat original about it.

A summary, for anyone else who's late to the bandwagon, spoiler-free, written by yours truly:

Tom Sherbourne, a WWI veteran haunted by his past, couldn't be happier now that he's a lighthouse keeper and married to the love of his life, Isabel. But Tom and Isabel's carefree life alone on an island is marred by two miscarriages and a stillbirth. All Isabel wants is a baby...and one night, it seems that God has granted her heart's desire when a boat appears with a baby--a live baby and a dead man. Isabel can't bear to let the baby go and insists that she and Tom pretend the baby was hers all along. As they raise "their" little girl, Tom becomes more and more uneasy, wondering who might be devastated at the loss of the baby...

This book is a slow read. I got a little irritated by the slowness, and I'm not sure why because I usually like slow books--probably because I was impatient for some of the mysteries to get solved. But the book wasn't really about the mysteries; it was about the moral dilemma.

I really love books where there isn't a clear right and wrong. I think life rarely gives us easy decisions. And this book really takes the cake, because none of the decisions--for any of the characters, really--is easy. There aren't any clear answers, even at the end. I guess the reader gets to decide what was right, and whether the ending is good or bad (or both).

Now for the spoiler part of the review, so stop now if you haven't read the book yet...

Personally, I thought the ending was as good as it could be, considering that there were no perfect endings. I did feel for Tom and Isabel and at times I really wanted them to have Lucy, but I also hated the idea that even though they clearly made a mistake, they would get off easy and not have to live the consequences. Certainly I didn't think they deserved to go to prison or anything, but I didn't think they deserved to keep Lucy. I feel like that makes me a bad person. But even though I was often irritated with Hannah (Lucy's biological mother) for constantly living in the past and being unrealistic, I was even more irritated with the idea that a loving birth mother should be deprived of her baby when she did nothing wrong. Yes, the baby had grown older and she didn't recognize Hannah as her mother, but isn't that even more reason that Hannah should be able to have her back? I don't have children yet, but I think it would be very hard for me to ever forgive someone who took my baby away and turned her against me.

And you can make the same argument that someone was taking Isabel's baby away, but Isabel knew from the beginning that she might be depriving another mother of her baby. Isabel constantly put her own needs above the needs of others. She didn't even give a second thought to what someone else might be feeling. She convinced herself that God was favoring her above the baby's mother, and she couldn't let things be any other way. Even though I sympathized with Isabel and I actually liked her better than Hannah, I just could never be on her side with the selfishness.

So Isabel spent a few years thinking mainly of herself and being selfish--which is why I'm not sure the ending made sense. Isabel decided to save Tom instead of getting Lucy back. I was really glad she did because I thought it was the right thing to do, but I'm not sure it was in her character. She spent years distancing herself from her husband, and then she spent months convincing herself that Tom was a horrible villain who deserved to be punished. It seemed strange that she should suddenly turn completely around when she hadn't even seemed to think anywhere along those lines previously. But I do like the idea that her love for Tom was still there and it still made a difference when she let it.

Anyway, sorry for the miles-long review. That's my take on the book. What did you think? Who deserved to keep the baby? Who was in the right and who was in the wrong?

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