Up Late with The Light Between Oceans
Tom becomes a lighthouse keeper after serving in the first World War. He likes the quiet responsibility of it. He enjoys the solitude, and even enjoys the ritual of recording everything that happens each day at the light: “When he thinks back to the chaos, the years of manipulating facts, or the impossibility of know, let alone scribing, what the bloody hell was going on while explosions shattered the ground all around him, he enjoys the luxury of stating a simple truth.”
When ashore before he accepts his new position at Janus Rock, he meets Isabel, a young woman unlike any he’s known before. Her bold, fresh approach to life appeals to him, and they marry and begin a life out on the island. That life is disrupted the day a small boat washes up on short with a dead man and a little baby, crying.
What follows is the complicated story of a mother’s grief and love, a father’s desire to do the right thing, and community’s reaction to a situation they don’t fully understand. I particularly enjoyed the writing style, I sunk right into it. The metaphors were lovely, and the story drew me in immediately. I loved both Isabel and Tom, and struggled to decided which of them I would side with if this were a real situation. As usual, enjoy some favorite passages below.
- “I’ve learned the hard way that to have any kind of a future, you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past.”
- “Every end is the beginning of something else.”
- “Isabel had searched the dictionary. She knew that if a wife lost a husband, there was a whole new word to describe who she was: she was now a widow. A husband became a widower. But if a parent lost a child, there was no special label for their grief. They were still just a mother or a father, even if they no longer had a son or daughter. That seemed odd. As to her own status, she wondered whether she was still technically a sister, now that her adored brothers had died.”
- “There are times when the ocean is not the ocean–not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off of the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.”
- “Perhaps the same labeling obsession caused cartographers to split this body of water into two oceans, even though it is impossible to touch an exact point at which their currents begin to differ. Splitting. Labeling. Seeking out otherness. Some things don’t change.”
photo of the lighthouse in Cape May, New Jersey