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The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman

M. L. Stedman’s first novel, The Light Between Oceans, is a novel I highly recommend.

Stedman begins this luscious and spell-binding novel with a sorrowful sound.  “On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.  A single fat cloud snailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below.  Isabel sprinkled more water and patted down the soil around the rosemary bush she had just planted. For just a moment, her mind tricked her into hearing an infant’s cry.  She dismissed the illusion, her eye drawn instead by a pod of whales weaving their way up the coast to calve in the warmer waters, emerging now and again with a fluke of their tails like needles through tapestry.  She heard the cry again, louder this time on the early morning breeze.  Impossible” (3).

The story is then interrupted by a marvelous description of their island home.  Stedman writes, “From this side of the island, there was only vastness, all the way to Africa.  Here, the Indian Ocean washed into the great Southern Ocean and together they stretched like and endless carpet below the cliffs.  On days like this it seemed so solid she had the impression she could walk to Madagascar in a journey of

blue upon blue.  The other side of the island looked back, fretful, toward the Australian mainland nearly a hundred miles away, not quite belonging to the land, yet not quite free."

The story then turns to Tom Sherbourne.  He was only days since he left the horrific “war to end all wars.”  Stedman continues, “‘Yes, I realize that,’ Tom Sherbourne said.  He was sitting in a spartan room, barely cooler than the sultry day outside.  The Sydney summer rain pelted the window and sent the people on the pavement scurrying for shelter.  ‘I mean very tough.’ The man across the desk leaned forward for emphasis.  ‘It’s no picnic.  Not that Byron’s Bay’s the worst posting on the lights, but I want to make sure you know what you are in for.’  He tamped down the tobacco with his thumb and lit his pipe.  Tom’s letter of application had told the same story as many a fellow around that time: born 28 September 1893; war spent in the army; experience with the International Code and Morse; physically fit and well; honorable discharge.  The rules stipulated that preference should be given to ex-service men.  ‘It can’t—’ Tom stopped and began again.  ‘All due respect, Mr. Coughlan, it’s not likely to be tougher than the Western Front” (9).

This marvelous, passionate, heart-breaking story The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman is one every reader should treasure.  10 stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.