This 2012 NY Times Bestseller is just now being discovered by book clubs, perhaps because it lends itself so well to discussions involving human empathy, ethics, and the fact that the book is just such a darned good story. It is heart wrenching and, as advertised on the cover, deals with “love, loss, and right and wrong,” just the meat for a group to chew on.
In the story, we find Tom Sherborne, a veteran from the Western Front during WWII, were he saw all the horrors of war and is left dealing with the fact he has killed, something very much against his personal beliefs; taking a job as a lighthouse keeper. Not just any lighthouse, but the one on Janus Island, off the coast of Australia, so isolated it is “half a day’s journey by boat to even get to it.” On leave, while on the Australian coast, he meets a very young Isobel, a bold, pampered girl who loves him unconditionally from the moment she sees him. At her insistence, they marry and he whisks her away to an isolated, lonely, mundane life on Janus, for they are the only humans there. Surprisingly enough she is perfectly satisfied. as he is all she wants and needs.
In the early years of their marriage, she suffers miscarriages and a stillbirth, which, of course affects them both, as well as the marriage. One day a boat washes up on shore, containing a dead man and a live baby girl. Tom wants and knows he should report this “find” to the authorities, but Isabel feels in His own strange way, God has sent her a child.
The story becomes increasingly tragic as the years go by, and the girl grows up. As Tom struggles with his conscience, and the couple meet the child’s grieving mother while on shore leave, the reader fears a collision of epic proportions, which actually does occur. However, the author miraculously brings about a satisfying (if not a happy-ever-after) ending, and the reader breathes a sigh of satisfaction, having experienced a “darned good read.”