We originally received this audiobook thanks to Audiobook Jukebox and Simon & Schuster Audio last year. Fellow Hoarder Penny listened and reviewed the tale, giving it a heartfelt 4 stars. She wrote a beautiful review, which can be found here. It encapsulated the story perfectly. I’m just writing a second, somewhat abbreviated review perhaps as a therapeutic measure. I miss the characters.
Tom Sherbourne, a decorated veteran of WWI, takes a position as a Lighthouse Keeper on Janus Rock back in his native Australia. He figures that any man with as scarred a past requires isolation, and he looks forward to the time alone. This might give him the opportunity to sort out his thoughts and his life up until that point. However, upon a visit to the mainland shortly thereafter, he meets Isabel and is swept away. They marry and live together happily on Janus Rock.
Their idyllic situation is soon dashed on the rocks as Isabel suffers two miscarriages and a heartbreaking stillbirth. Their attempts to grow into a family of three look all but lost… until oddly, a dingy is found on their shore one night. Inside, the couple find a dead man, and baby girl who is very much alive. Tom, who lives by meticulous means with arduous logs and shining prisms, wants to report the event. Isabel, however, believing the baby to be a gift from God for the souls they have lost, talks him out of the lawful thing to do. Reluctantly, Tom eventually buries the poor deceased man, and agrees to keep the baby. Surely, the infant’s parents have been lost at sea. Surely, loving this child as their own is the most logical and kind thing to do. Surely, no one will ever be the wiser. They name the child Lucy, and adore her from the start.
But this heaven-on-Janus can’t possibly last. When the child is two, and smitten with her loving parents, Tom and Isabel discover that Lucy’s mother is alive. Her name is Hannah, a sweet girl from a very well-to-do family on the mainland. Since losing her beloved husband and infant girl to the sea (following a harrowing incident with the local townspeople), the poor creature is a mere shade of the person she used to be. She’s heartbroken, and haunted. There isn’t a day that passes that she does not ache for her loved ones. She is also convinced that her daughter is still alive.
The couple face a choice. The right thing to do is clear to both of them. For Tom, they must report what they have done, and return the child to her mother. For Isabel, they must keep Lucy, as they are the only parents the child has actually known. The back and forth between the two is exhausting. More often than not, it’s infuriating. Tom’s stance understands that they have caused irrevocable hurt, and he wants to remedy the situation by returning the child to her grief-stricken mother. Isabel’s stance revolves around her own personal needs, and the heartbreak she has endured in the past. Isabel digs in, maintaining that keeping the girl from her biological mother is in the child’s best interest.
This is the part where I must be coy, lest I give away too much. What I will say is that regardless of which side you take, you will still ache for everyone else. Tom is a moral gentleman. Isabel is a heartbroken mother. Hannah is a heartbroken mother. In a situation where right and wrong can be blurred, it becomes very difficult to see. I, for one, took no prisoners when I chose my side, and grew increasingly furious with one of the characters. One more than one occasion, I texted Penny for comfort, pleading with her to tell me if my hunches were on the right track. Penny wouldn’t divulge a thing. I had to listen for myself. I’m so happy that I did.
For a magnificently written story, The Light Between Oceans is a must read. You’ll languish when there’s heartache, and will smile when there’s compassion. The plot is creative and the dilemma is painful. Your emotions will be swept away with the tide.
5 stars for a remarkable journey.
Narration: This audiobook was read by Noah Taylor. While I will say that his accent was perfect (beautiful, in fact), and his voices for the characters hit every mark, I have to admit that I would often get frustrated with how quiet he would become. He seemed to whisper a good portion of the book, which would force me to increase the volume. When he would suddenly return to a regular tone, I would jump out of my skin. Essentially, I would go from straining to hear to a panicked slap of the volume dial. Still, Mr. Taylor was effective, and clearly had affection for the characters. That came through loud and clear.