Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

Cannonball Read IV #30

I have been going back and forth on ML Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans for some time. I was going to get it on my nook but then I got a coupon for 20% of a Barnes and Noble book, and since I get free shipping, it was the same cost as the nook book, so I ordered it. Then I read my best friend Jen Hatmaker‘s tweet about how she finished it and her husband asked her if something was wrong with her face because it was all swollen.

That is, apparently, what sobbing does.

I am a sucker for books that make me cry. (Point in case: Where the Red Fern Grows has the ability to make me weep just thinking about it, and is one of those books that I read when I’m in the mood for a good cry.) But I am wary of books that people tell me are so good they’ll make me cry. (Yet that has not stopped me once from telling everyone who ever asks me about books that The Book Thief will make them weep and if it doesn’t then they’re a robot and we can’t be friends.) Hence the vacillation between nook, not ordering, and hardcover.

The Light Between Oceans is the story of Tom Sherbourne and his wife, Isabel. The two live on a deserted lighthouse, the only two on the islands. After multiple miscarriages and a stillborn, the couple is devastated. One day, a small boat washes up on the shore of the island. In it are a dead man and a live, little baby girl. Against Tom’s judgement, he agrees to keep the infant after he finds Isabel, only a few days postpartum from their stillborn son, nursing the girl. They name her Lucy and it isn’t until several years later that they realize the devastation of what they have done.

You guys. This novel was breathtaking. It’s a gorgeous setting, beautiful writing, and compelling characters. I could feel Isabel’s grief and Tom’s reluctance, even though he grew to love Lucy. Its pace was perfect. Spanning many years, Stedman does an excellent job of describing the passage of time. The dialogue was believable. And the support cast of characters, from friends to family to law, was a group of people who might exist in real life. And the story! I could not put this book down. It was “just a few more pages” and “just this last chapter” — and that led me to finishing the book in a spectacularly little amount of time.

I genuinely cannot think of a single thing to say about this that is negative. It’s a beautiful adult novel but a young adult could read it, too. Its language is appropriate and its themes, while serious, would be okay for an older teenager. I would have read this in high school and loved every word of it.

I finished reading this at work, so I did my very best to keep my own tears until control, but there were lots of them. I would have ugly cried had I not been sitting in my office with a window that anyone could look through. Highly recommend this one. I’ll totally be reading Stedman’s next work.

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