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A story of light conquering darkness through a challenging life choice

April 3, 2014

Lighthouses are a fascinating subject to consider. The extraordinary role they play in the life and potential death of those who fare and frolic upon the oceans of this world is something important to consider. If one malfunctions, even for just a short time, well the results could potentially become rapidly catastrophic. The light saves lives. There are many famous lighthouses the world around.

The candy cane striped lighthouse on the outer banks in North Carolina comes to mind immediately. They had to physically move the lighthouse tower back from the edge of the sea where it sat, so it would not topple over into the ocean. That was quite a feat. The massive wave breaking behind a man standing on the round-about of the La Jument Lighthouse in France is perhaps the most famous lighthouse picture ever captured. Look it up if you have never seen it. It is incredible! Our own Point Judith Lighthouse is one of the most important lighthouses on the East Coast of the United States of America. It is a very impressive structure when you get up close, and its function, like all the large and small lighthouses of the world is crucial. Light always wins out over darkness. There is comfort in that.

Today's book is entitled “The Light Between Oceans” by M. L. Stedman. It is a brilliantly written first effort by this author. It came out in 2012 and was considered one of the top reads of the year in 2013 by numerous groups that rate and rank that type of thing. It is now published by Scribner. The novel is a work of historical fiction. The author made a strong effort to do research within the National Archives in Australia about lighthouses and the people who worked them to get a good grip on the topic she was inspired to write about. This story was chosen because of its extreme and utterly real content. The main characters were dealt a hand of cards in life that was challenging to say the least, on physical, mental and spiritual levels. How they fared, the choices they made and the outcome of the story are all riveting.

“The Light Between Oceans” is a tale of hardship and choices one may make under extreme conditions. After four challenging years on the Western Front in the worst of conditions that WWI offered, one of our main characters, Tom Sherbourne, returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. This is in a lighthouse set upon an island many miles off the west coast of Australia, a place where he must reside permanently for years on end, 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 his young and loving wife, Isabel.

Tom and Isabel face a life together that is very difficult in all regards. Within this already hard life, they try to have a family out on Janus Island, but are thwarted by two miscarriages and one stillbirth. It seems something greater is keeping the possibility of family life from them. One day Isabel, who must have been at her wit's end with sadness and heartache, hears a baby’s cries from the water below the lighthouse. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. She and her husband are faced with quite a dilemma, as one might imagine. The process they go through mentally and physically, the ensuing choices they make, and the effect those choices have on themselves and eventually others, forms the basis for quite a tale.

It is something to consider when we make any choices in this life. How will this choice affect others? It would seem many choices are made by people in larger and smaller proportions where this question is not a priority consideration. There are many reasons for this, I suppose, but none of them are really that strong. What we do will have ripple effects into the lives of others, the Earth we live on, and the Universe at large. What those effects are we are not always sure, but with some thought and sense of spiritual guidance, we can make an effort to be sure they are more positive than negative. It is something to think about.

M. L. Stedman’s “The Light Between Oceans” is a really nicely written story about how decisions people make, particularly under duress, can and will have fallout effects on the greater level of existence. What is the right thing to do? How do we as human beings find a way to know that with some sense of surety? What do we do if we find we have made a decision along the way that has profound, or even miniscule negative effects on others? Can we find forgiveness for ourselves and others and right wrongs? These are all tough questions. Sometimes we need to look to the lighthouses in our lives to find these answers. Keep your eyes peeled, and they will guide you.

Enjoy and read on!

Kerry Wholey is a freelance writer in Narragansett.


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