2016 Reading Challenge: Book 2, The Light Between Oceans, A book written by a woman (M.L. Stedman)
In life, we are faced with many decisions—some small, and some very, very big. Not a person alive can say that they have never once faced a big decision and chose incorrectly. Every one of us holds regret in our hearts, and many of those big decisions we poorly make continue to shape our lives long after we make them; their implications resonate throughout the rest of our lives. This novel deals with one such decision; in a moment of uncertainty, a husband and wife make a decision that will impact not only their own lives, but the lives of many for years afterward.
Though in retrospect it is easy for us to judge others who have made mistakes, this novel forces the reader to examine the reality that sometimes good people make tragic choices. In this story, we follow the lives of two upstanding, wonderful people who grow on us throughout the story until fate brings them an impossible decision—and they make the wrong choice. The novel discomfits the reader by turning the notion of “good and evil” on its head; a person can be both good and evil and have the capacity to do something evil in the name of doing something right. Stedman highlights that doing what is right is not always easy, and for some of us it becomes impossible, but so can living with the consequences of our choices.
Set in the gorgeous backdrop of a solitary island serving as a Lighthouse post, the love story of two strangers unfolds in a small town in post World War I Australia. The lives of the townsfolk are knitted together by necessity and fate as the narrative builds to bring the fate of two families to their breaking point. In between the beautiful scenery and wonderful prose, Stedman forces the reader to ask themselves what they wouldn’t do for the ones they love, and could they live with those choices? What can guilt do to a person’s soul? And who gets to decide what is “best” for another person?
Stedman’s greatest accomplishment in this novel is creating two characters that readers simultaneously love and abhor. She proves that people are more complicated than we give them credit for, and sometimes the best people we know are harboring secrets and desires that would destroy the way we see them forever. Stedman holds up the mirror to humanity and forces us to truly examine what we are capable of doing given the right set of circumstances.