You know that wiped-out feeling you get just after a good solid cry? Yeah, that's what I'm feeling right now. I just finished The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. In a word, heartbreaking. This month's book club selection started off slowly for me. I'll be interested to see how many of the ladies finished it. I was a little worried I wouldn't make it myself, but once I was about a quarter of the way through, it really picked up speed. I felt that the chapter transitions in particular made it difficult to put the book down.
A couple living on a small isolated island one hundred miles from the Australian coast discover a boat washed ashore. Inside it are a dead man and a crying infant. The couple, Isabelle and Tom, could have signaled to shore and had someone come get the baby. They could have reported this most unusual circumstance, but that is not what they did. Isabelle yearns for a child of her own and so believes God has blessed her with one indirectly. Convincing themselves that the child's mother must have died at sea, they keep the little girl and raise her themselves. The trouble comes when it is discovered that the baby's mother is alive and has been looking for her all this time.
What do they do? Turn their four-year-old child over to someone she doesn't even know? Give up the family they have finally made together? And what of their extended families? How will this affect an entire town? This is not a book with a clearly defined villain, a clean cut hero. There are many, many shades of gray, but hardly anything seems to be black and white. Who has suffered the most? Who stands to continue to suffer? Whose feelings are of the greatest importance? The birth mother? The adoptive mother and father who have cared for and loved the child? Is it possible or right to consider the feelings of such a little girl?
While I thought I wasn't going to care for this book, I found myself flipping pages in a hurry to find out what would happen. And it did come very highly recommended to me. The writing is beautiful, if a little long winded in the beginning, and I felt I could place myself in nearly every character's shoes. I think this will be a very interesting book club discussion.