Author Stedman wove together a tale of choice and consequence and tossed in an isolated island and carefully pieced it together for the reader to witness and then judge the outcome. The ending surprised me and no—I’m not telling. Most of the novel takes place on a one square mile island called Janus Rock, over a hundred miles from the Australian mainland. Tom Sherbourne has returned from WWI and though he appears in perfect health, what he carries inside haunts his every dream. “Tom isn’t one of the men whose legs trailed by a hank of sinews, of whose guts cascaded from their casing like slithering eels…But he’s scarred all the same, having to live in the same skin as the man who did the things that needed to be done back then. He carries that other shadow, which is cast inward.” The small village of Point Partageuse on the south-western corner of the Australian continent is where the beginning of this story is set—as well as the end. Here is where Janus Rock lighthouse is based and it is where Tom meets his future wife, Isabel Graysmark. Together they move to Janus Rock and begin a life that at first seems straight from a Nickolas Sparks novel. At first. “Tom dashed to his desk for paper and pen. He sat down to write, before realizing he had no idea what to say. He didn’t want to say anything: just send her a smile.” It drips romance. Those two love-birds. Well, one thing led to another and after not one, or two, oh no, author Stedman drags the reader through three miscarriages and then something seems to save the day. Everything has a price. A rowboat washes ashore and the novel races into a storm that lashes out and nearly destroys them both; inside this small vessel is a dead man and, of course, a newborn baby that is very much alive. “He handed her the bundle, and tried again to revive the stranger: no pulse. He turned to Isabel, who was examining the diminutive creature. “He’s gone, Izz. The baby? It’s all right, by the looks. No cuts or bruises. It’s so tiny! There, there. You’re safe now, little one. You’re safe, you beautiful thing.” Safe. And of course, the baby they found has a birth mother on the edge of insanity with worry. Wondering where her new-born infant and husband with a weak heart have gone to? This is where the story fell into a predictable, dread-loaded formulaic pattern. With nearly unbelievable layers of story, I trudged on with Isabel and Tom and this newly found little life they named Lucy. One of the saving graces of Stedman’s angst-filled novel is the writing. It’s simply beautiful. And, I seem to have a weakness for island-settings, so there was that as well since Janus Rock is really more of a character than the setting. This is a story of choices and a reminder that even if a man (and a woman) live on an island, life will come and find you.
• Great for Book Clubs • What would you have done?