There were few times while listening to this book that I did not feel like my heart was being ripped from my body. Stedman knows how to capture love, loss and despair and its ability to blur the lines one might not cross normally.
One of the reasons I returned for more each day was to hear the voice of Noah Taylor. His narration added to the experience of the story as an audiobook. Often I wish there were more than one narrator in order to delineate between the characters, yet somehow Taylor struck just the right chord. Without question I would pick another listen by Taylor although I would like to try something a bit lighter next time.
Tom Sherbourne returns from years in the war and is looking for a quiet life far away from the horrors he has seen and been a part of. He has taken a job as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island Australian island. A young girl attracted to Sherbourne convinces him that she would be happy to follow him to the island and so off they go as husband and wife.
Life starts out in a lovely way for the honeymooners. Isabel works to make this island their home, Tom takes to his duties as lighthouse keeper and the couple is happy. The couple decide to start a family but it was not to be as she suffers two miscarriages and a stillbirth and is near the point of breaking as this island has now become a prison of her failures. But what if your prayers brought a baby to the shore just after this last baby died? Would you follow the rules or follow your heart and make a decision that seems so right but is so wrong.
Isabel saw this baby as a sign from God whereas Tom knew that she should be returned to her rightful home. But love is a powerful emotion and it wraps itself around Tom’s mind and heart he agrees to grant Isabel’s fantasy for a short time and then it becomes too late to turn back. Things do lighten as the three of them become a family but Tom is tortured by this decision, Isabel crazed thinking about loosing Lucy and Lucy’s biological mother going crazy over the loss.
Years later the secret is out as someone has shared with Hannah, the biological mother, that her daughter is alive. Lucy is taken away, Tom is arrested and feels relief but is focused on protecting Isabel whom has become a shell of her former self. Stedman draws out the these this sadness as these characters struggle with choices in the pages to come. At no point does Stedmen take the easy way out, the layers of love, loss and despair continue to ripple through the pages of this novel.
For me this was a beautiful disaster as there was little peace for the listener nor the characters but it was well crafted and executed. An amazing debut from M.L. Stedman and to be sure there are many more novels to come. Whoever cast Noah Taylor to narrate deserves a standing O as this made the audiobook exceptional.
To get a little bird’s-eye view into Tom and Isabel’s world view this clip: http://videos.simonandschuster.com/ML-Stedman’s-Debut-Novel-The-Light-Between/1749987219001. A special thank you to Simon Audio who puts amazing audiobooks into my hands for which I am grateful.