M. L. Stedmans’ debut work of fiction, The Light Between Oceans is another exhibit in the case against reading cover blurbs. This book had a note using the term “heartwarming,” which is not appropriate for this book, in my opinion. Light Between Oceans is a fine effort that deals with love, war-ravaged psyches, and the jealousy of the maternal instinct. It’s also a well-unified piece, using the bright spot of the little girl to encapsulate the shining light of opportunity and love between two opposed mothers. But I would hardly consider this novel’s events or conclusion “heartwarming.”
Ms. Stedman’s book contains the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife, a young couple who have suffered through several miscarried pregnancies. One day a miracle falls to them: a baby washes up on their remote island in a rowboat, the man in the boat with her (apparently her father) dead from cardiac arrest. The plot has interesting points, and is made quite believable by the author. But flaws creep in … I had a difficult time with how willing the young mother (Isabel) was to assume the duties of and give the love of a mother. My suspension of disbelief was further strained by Isabel’s apparent willingness later in the book to let people think the absolute worst of her incarcerated husband.
Nevertheless, this book’s descriptions of beautiful and captivating little Lucy-Grace are perfect – never off by even the tiniest bit. She embodies the shining hope and ideal object of love for two different women, and thus stands out as the light between two oceans. However, this book made me tense, as I kept expecting a certain outcome, but was disappointed in that expectation. And the very end didn’t quite seem necessary, and had a definite formulaic feel, which the rest of the book certainly did not.
A family saga, set in a unique place – off the southeastern coast of Australia – that deals difficult family, legal, and psychological issues, this is a flawed but interesting debut. This author shows promise, but I recommend waiting for subsequent efforts.