Located on Janus Rock, off the coast of Australia, there is a place with neither a future nor a past; it is a lighthouse situated between two oceans; its sole purpose is to provide safety for the maritime world. At this lighthouse, lives the keeper, Tom Sherbourne, a man preferring solitude, mentally scarred by war, and his wife, Isabel (Izzy Bella), a bit younger, who loves to play at life and wants only to share in his, on this remote piece of lonely land. There, one day, they will make a momentous decision that will alter the lives of many.
This is such a tender story of devotion and loyalty, of the consequences of decisions once made that cannot be retracted, of mistakes that cannot be erased. Beautifully written, the reader is on the island with the lighthouse, on the rocky shore and the beachfront, climbing up and trudging down the slopes and stairs, experiencing both the magic and desperate moments of Isabel and Tom Sherbourne’s lives. Sadness is often their companion as Isabel cannot hold a child, although she is frequently pregnant. Then, suddenly, one day, they are both startled to hear the sound of a child crying. They discover a small boat has washed up on their shore. Hidden beneath a shawl is an infant, but quite visible, is a man who is no longer present in this world.
Just having borne a stillborn child, Izzy is bereft and prevails upon her husband, begging him not to report this discovery too soon, as he is legally bound to do. Her whole demeanor changes with the presence of the child. Think about it, she advises, for the safety of the child. He is swayed by her desperation and relents for a night, and then another and then another. Thus begins a tale of heartbreak with dreadful consequences.
Tormented by what they have done, Tom deliberates his choices to put things right again. Is it even possible? Is there another mother out there pining for her child and her husband or did she drown when they sailed away in the small boat? Would the child’s ultimate fate truly have been an orphanage as Izzy insisted? Did this surprise gift of happiness for one woman, bring destruction and chaos to another’s life? Tom is tormented by these thoughts. What have they done? How can they make it right? Is Tom doing the right thing giving Izzy her way in this, or is he being weak? Is he simply overwhelmingly devoted and blinded by love? Is the mother’s loss of her husband and child, as great as, or greater than, their loss of their unborn children? Both of them, Isabel and Tom, have suffered so much loss within their own families.
When Lucy is christened, they discover that a monument to an infant and father, who went missing in a boat two years prior, had recently been erected. When, Bluey, one of the more simple-minded men, who delivers supplies to the lighthouse where they live, tells his mom that he thinks the missing baby might be living at Janus Light, because of a distinctive rattle he once noticed there, his mother is overcome with greed and marches straight to the police station without thinking of anything but the reward. Each of the people involved had their own secrets, each told their own lies or kept silent, some to protect, some to harm others, but none but one or two aimed to get at the truth and heal the pain. Evil does not often live in the one you most suspect, but rather in the one that quietly plans the mischief. Does the reason for doing something wrong, perhaps out of love or hate, change the painful outcome or even possibly make it legitimate?
The writing style is very inviting and the characters are drawn carefully, with great detail, slowly, though, so they fully develop over time. The reader gets to know the two main characters very well and participates in their special story of love and loss. How will this disastrous dilemma end? You will have to read it to find out. This is a heartbreaking tale, worth every page of the read. It will be hard to put it down and harder still to continue to read it. The subject matter will reach into your core and the sharpness of the pain each character feels, will be your own. For a first novel, this has truly succeeded.