Published by Scribner on July 31st 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Challenge Theme: A book set in a country you've never been to
Buy on Barnes & Noble
Buy on Amazon
A captivating, beautiful, and stunningly accomplished debut novel that opens in 1918 Australia – the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make one devastating choice that forever changes two worlds.
Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written debut novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.
I really, really enjoyed this book. I am actually surprised by the number of bad reviews on Goodreads. I believe those people can’t relate to Isabel and her choices. Anyone who has had multiple miscarriages or trouble getting pregnant can 100% relate to her, even if her choices are morally wrong. Without getting too much into my own personal story I can absolutely relate to her desperation of wanting a baby and feeling that when Lucy came ashore that it was God’s way of giving her the child she longed for. While I wouldn’t make the same decision (at least I don’t think I would) I do understand it.
The writing is beautiful and descriptive, made me able to visualize every scene in the book especially on Janus. The author stuck closely to the story which I appreciated. Many times authors give too much to the story and it loses the core of what is going on. Stedman didn’t put in details just to have them there. Everything was essential to the story. Without giving any spoilers I appreciate where Stedman took the story, even if it hurt my heart. I am starting to realize I really love historical fiction when the writing is so good. Overall this book is a 4.5 for me. I can’t wait to watch the movie…I heard it was wonderful too.
“You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”
“I mean I promised to spend my life with you. I still want to spend my life with you. Izz, I’ve learned the hard way that to have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of every changing your past.”
“Sometimes life turns out hard, Isabel. Sometimes it just bites right through you. And sometimes, just when you think it’s done its worst, it comes back and takes another chunk.”
“You don’t think ahead in years or months: you think about this hour, and maybe the next. Anything else is speculation.”
“Such a mysterious business, motherhood. How brave a woman must be to embark on it.”
“When it comes to their kids, parents are all just instinct and hope. And fear. Rules and laws fly straight out the window.”
“If the war had taught her anything, it was to take nothing for granted: that it wasn’t safe to put off what mattered. Life could snatch away the things you treasured, and there was no getting them back.”
“Stick to now. Put right the things you can put right today, and let the ones from back then go. Leave the rest to the angels, or the devil or whoever’s in charge of it.”